Lakes area residents will have the opportunity later this month to lend a hand in monitoring sites in three area river watersheds for the presence of stoneflies. Considered a good indicator species, checking west Oakland river sites for stoneflies will help advocacy groups track water quality trends along the Huron, Clinton and Rouge rivers. Because each of those rivers flows through multiple area lakes, the upcoming stonefly searches can indirectly benefit those lakes by pinpointing potential water quality problems, which can flow downstream and have a negative affect on the lakes. That’s why we encourage interested lakes area residents — both riparians and non-riparians who also use and enjoy west Oakland lakes and streams — to participate in the pending stonefly searches.
The Clinton River Watershed Council (CRWC), the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC), and the Friends of the Rouge (FOTR) will be searching their respective river watersheds for stoneflies later this month.
The stonefly has stringent water quality requirements, such as highly-oxygenated and clean water, which makes it a good water quality indicator, according to Michele Arquette-Palermo, education and stewardship director at the CRWC. While the presence of stoneflies is an indicator of good water quality, their absence points to potential pollution or another water quality issue.
Arquette-Palermo said stoneflies provide the CRWC with a better picture of the river’s water quality than chemical testing. She said chemical tests for phosphates and nitrates in the water capture conditions in a single moment in time. Insects, especially in the nymph stage, can live in the rivers for months. Therefore, she said the presence or absence of stoneflies in the river gives the watershed council a picture of long-term water quality.
Winter stonefly nymphs develop in cold, clear running water. When they become adults, they climb out of the water and shed their skins. This normally occurs in late winter, which is why the area watershed advocacy groups conduct stonefly searches at this time of year.
The CRWC will hold its stonefly search on Saturday, Jan. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers will meet up at Yates Park in Rochester Hills before fanning out across the watershed to various monitoring sites. Arquette-Palermo is asking people to register in advance by either e-mailing email@example.com, or calling 248-601-0606. Hot beverages, snacks, and pizza will be provided to volunteers.
The HRWC needs volunteers for its 5-hour search on Saturday, Jan. 29. There are two start times to choose from: 10:15 a.m. or 11:45 a.m. Volunteers will meet at the NEW Center, 1100 N. Main Street in Ann Arbor, before moving out to assigned monitoring sites. First time volunteers are asked to fill out a basic information form and a registration form. Returning volunteers only need to fill out a registration. Volunteers are asked to register for the search by today, Wednesday, Jan. 12 at www.hrwc.org/volunteer/stonefly, or by contacting Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-769-5123, ext. 600.
The FOTR will hold its stonefly search on Saturday, Jan. 22. Volunteers are asked to meet at the University of Michigan-Dearborn at 9 a.m. From there they will be venturing out to streams around the metropolitan area. Preregistration through the FOTR website at www.therouge.org or by calling 313-792-9621 is required by Friday, Jan. 14.
Volunteers for any of the three stonefly searches should dress appropriately for the weather and be prepared to be out in the cold for several hours.
Although heading out to various river sites in the dead of winter, possibly during less-than-favorable conditions, may not top one’s list of things to do on a Saturday morning, the three watershed groups could use some help in conducting their annual stonefly searches. Monitoring water quality — in this case by documenting the presence or absence of stoneflies — is important work. The data from each year’s search is added to information collected in previous years, thereby contributing to a database that helps track water quality trends over a long period of time. That data can then be used to develop and implement efforts to bolster water quality, which in turn improves the area’s quality of life.
Keep in mind that helping to resolve river water quality problems can also help to protect and preserve water quality in the lakes through which the Huron, Clinton and Rouge rivers flow.
With the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) experiencing funding and personnel shortages, and county and local governments similarly hampered, events like the stonefly searches can go a long way toward keeping an eye on the condition of area waterways. Riparian property owners and those who don’t have legal access to the waterways other than parks or public boating access sites should get out into the field this month and do their part to monitor and ultimately maintain high-quality water resources.