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Characterization of water quality, biology, and habitat of the Pearl River and selected tributaries contiguous to and within Tribal lands of the Pearl River community of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, 2017–18
Proceedings of the 2022 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2022 Authors: Driver L.J., Hicks M.B., Gill A.C.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) is a federally recognized tribe with territories in Mississippi and Tennessee. MBCI has sovereign authority over its natural resources and is responsible for protecting the quality of waters within the Tribal lands and restoring impaired waters. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with MBCI, collected physical habitat, water-quality, and biological community data at 8 selected stream sites within and contiguous to the MBCI Pearl River community in central Mississippi in 2017 and 2018. Data from MBCI waters were evaluated to establish baseline conditions and to provide a general context of current condition of water quality and biological communities among sites.

Generally, water-quality concentrations were within natural ranges and were not considered to be chronically stressful for aquatic life, with a few exceptions. Concentrations of total nitrogen and total phosphorus often where slightly elevated at seven of the eight sampled stream sites, indicating nutrient enrichment as a possible stressor and nutrients were frequently highest in Wolf Creek downstream of the wastewater treatment plant that services the Pearl River community. Organic wastewater compounds, including compounds with endocrine-disrupting potential, were detected at low concentrations in water samples from most sites, but were often below the laboratory reporting limit. Likewise, concentrations of most trace elements and PAHs in bed sediment were very low among sites.

Overall, periphyton, macroinvertebrate, and fish communities appeared to be typical of central Mississippi streams. However, the diversity, composition, and abundance of taxa sampled from Wolf Creek were generally distinctive as compared to other sites. Particularly, the Wolf Creek site downstream of the wastewater treatment plant had the lowest Mississippi-Benthic Index of Stream Quality (M-BISQ) score, indicating a substantially altered macroinvertebrate community compared to the other sample sites and data from a local least disturbed stream. This Wolf Creek site also had relatively lower diversity and higher abundance of some diatom indicator taxa and higher abundance of tubificid worms, indicating possible ecological responses to nutrient enrichment.

Data and results from this study can be directly used by the MBCI as a baseline from which to compare future data collection efforts and a guide for directing intensive data collection and assessments efforts and for targeting areas for implementation of best management practices.

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