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Stream restoration is an important process affecting the ecological health of stream ecosystems. There have been numerous cases of restoration, dealing with either structural or biological changes. In Korea, most restoration projects have merely dealt with improving hydrological characteristics or water quality; however, in recent years the improvement of ecological characteristics has been an increasing focus for restoration projects. In this study, we utilized data collected from 5675 stream sites in May 2007 to discover general patterns of anthropogenic modification in Korean streams. The survey results after application of the stream modification index (SMI; presence or absence type; high scores indicate more disturbed) provided a general distribution of disturbed/undisturbed streams or rivers in the watershed. We then compared the level of modification with the socio-geographical patterns (population, land coverage, elevation, and slope) for the watershed. The results show that streams in highly populated areas suffered from human modification compared with other well-preserved stream sites. In metropolitan cities, urbanized areas had positive relationship as identified by a high SMI. On the other hand, agricultural land cover identified an SMI increase for lowland river area. In general, mountainous streams possessed a better status in stream morphology due to different land-cover patterns (i.e., mainly forested area); however, some mountainous areas were impacted by concentrated summer rainfall. We could distinguish the forcing variables (i.e., land use pattern) for the disturbed streams through a comparison between the SMI and geographical information; the SMI application was able to identify areas of high necessity for restoration.
Despite numerous previous studies, relationships between watershed land use and adjacent streams and rivers at various scales in Korea remain unclear. This study investigated the relationships between land uses and the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of 720 sites of streams and rivers across the country. The land uses at two spatial scales, including a 1-km buffer and the base watershed management region (BWMR), were computed in a geographical information system (GIS) with a digital land use/land cover map. Characteristics of land uses at two spatial scales were then correlated with the monitored multidimensional characteristics of the streams and rivers. The results of this study indicate that land use types have significant effects on stream and river characteristics. Specifically, most characteristics were negatively correlated with the proportions of urban, rice paddy, agricultural, and bare soil areas and positively correlated with the amount of forest. The site-scale and BWMR-scale analyses suggest that BWMR land use patterns were more strongly related to ecological integrity than they were to site land use patterns. Improving our understanding of land use effects will largely depend on relating the results of site-specific studies that use similar response techniques and measures to evaluate ecological integrity. In addition, our results clearly indicate that the characteristics of streams and rivers are closely linked and that land use types differentially affect those characteristics. Thus, effective restoration and management for ecological integrity of lotic system should consider the physical, chemical, and biological factors in combination.
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