This article was originally posted here. TTF is honored that Laura Craig, Ph.D., Science & Economics Program Director, serves on our Board of Advisors.
They’re small, you can’t paddle or swim…so why do they matter and what’s all the fuss about saving these systems.
Small streams, otherwise referred to as headwaters, are vital habitat for many aquatic and semi-aquatic species and integral for clean water.
So if you love black belly salamanders, rainbow darters or Coho salmon—you must love small streams.
These small headwaters, some of which only run freely for parts of the year (depending on precipitation), are unique environments. Essentially, they provide the filtering mechanism for our nation’s clean water.
So if you love water skiing, swimming or oysters—you must love small streams.
These small streams are vital for other reasons both in flood mitigation and recharging groundwater supplies. Because these tiny streams have the most surface area in contact with the soil not only do they absorb significant amounts of rain and snow thereby preventing downstream flooding but also contribute to groundwater as water within the stream interacts with the soil and is absorbed.
Headwater streams also provide food for downstream organisms. Headwaters receive large amounts of energy inputs, in the case of Eastern streams mainly leaves, which are utilized by organisms such as bacteria and fungi making the leaf “juicer” for insects. Essentially, it’s the equivalent of adding blueberries to your cereal—it now not only tastes better but it’s better for you. Stream insects also drift downstream and become important food for fish.
So if you love watching dragonflies, fishing or simply drinking beer while someone else fishes—you must love small streams.
Convincing you to love small streams and convincing political agendas are a bit different. Currently, several issues are working against our headwater streams. These include: funding cuts in the budget for EPA and the Energy and Interior Departments, threats to drinking water supply through gas drilling (mainly involving chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing), continued burial and chemical contamination of small streams by mountain top mining and lastly a lack of conservation of stream buffers and continued urbanization of streams.
Did you know that our restoration work focuses on these small headwater streams, particularly Jenkintown Creek but also East Baeder Creek, Rock Creek, Leeches Run, and Tookany Creek? Visit our Our Projects to learn more. Did you know that we advocate for laws and regulations to protect clean water? Learn more here!