Flow and water temperature are fundamental properties of stream ecosystems upon which many freshwater resource management decisions are based. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) gages are the most important source of streamflow and water temperature data available nationwide, but the degree to which gages represent landscape attributes of the larger population of streams has not been thoroughly evaluated. We identified substantial biases for seven landscape attributes in one or more regions across the conterminous United States. Streams with small watersheds (<10 km2) and at high elevations were often underrepresented, and biases were greater for water temperature gages and in arid regions. Biases can fundamentally alter management decisions and at a minimum this potential for error must be acknowledged accurately and transparently. We highlight three strategies that seek to reduce bias or limit errors arising from bias and illustrate how one strategy, supplementing USGS data, can greatly reduce bias.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Aquatic Science
- Nature and Landscape Conservation