Nine field indicators were identified for evaluating the hydrologic, biogeochemical, and/or habitat functioning of stream channels, riparian zones, or both. We ranked condition from “relatively unaltered” to “severely altered” for each of the identified indicators based on the range of conditions actually encountered among reference sites in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina, USA. The rankings provided a framework for developing a narrative used for scoring condition of the indicators at the scale of a reach (100-m-long × 60-m-wide segment). Reach condition was then derived by aggregating indicator scores, which were weighted by the number of functions with which each indicator was affiliated. Watershed-scale assessments were conducted by sampling randomly chosen first- to fourth-order reaches within stream networks at the density of approximately one 100-m reach per 1.0 km2 of watershed drainage area. We used the association between indicators and hydrologic, biogeochemical, and habitat functions to obtain aggregated, weighted scores for channel and riparian zone condition. We used both aggregated network scores and mean indicator scores to compare condition among stream networks. At a reach scale, scores of indicators suggest strategies for restoration. At the watershed scale, aggregate scores showed differences among stream networks that could be used to prioritize restoration efforts and monitor change over time.
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