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National Aquatic Resource Surveys (NARS)

woman measuring vegetation

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created a combination of statistical, nationwide surveys known as the National Aquatic Resource Surveys (NARS). These surveys are conducted in all states and are designed to assess the conditions of and changes in quality of our nation's water bodies. Representatives from each state are required to attend training to ensure the crews conduct surveys using universal protocols, so that all data can be validly compared. Target ecosystems include lakes, rivers and streams, wetlands, and coastal waters. FWRI’s Freshwater Plants team has had the pleasure of representing the state of Florida for 2 of the 4 national surveys over the past 3 years.  

The National Rivers and Stream Assessment (NRSA) occurs over two consecutive summers every 5 years. Our crew members conducted the NRSA for the state of Florida during the 2018 and 2019 summer seasons. Rivers, streams, and canals throughout the country were randomly selected for sampling. Sampling sites range from small waterways such as Black Creek and Alligator Creek in Starke, Florida, to much larger systems such as the Apalachicola and Escambia rivers in the panhandle. Crew members were split into two sampling teams - one for physical habitat surveys, the other for fish community surveys. Physical samples collected included water, algae, benthic macroinvertebrates, periphyton, and fish tissue. Additional data collected included, but was not limited to, human influence, riparian, presence of invasive species, and fish community assemblage.  

The National Lakes Assessment (NLA) occurs once every 5 years during the summer season. The NLA is a survey of our nation’s lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. FWRI crew members conducted the NLA for the state of Florida during the summer of 2017. Randomly selected sites included a number of small, privately-owned ponds as well as the monstrous Lake Okeechobee. These surveys consisted of two parts: physical sample collections and visual habitat assessments. Similar to NRSA, our team collected habitat data and water, algae, and periphyton samples, as well as unique samples like sediment cores and air samples. 

All data and samples were sent to the EPA for further analysis, and results of these surveys will be available online to the public after analyses are completed. The Freshwater Plants team plans to participate in the next rotation of both the NLA and NRSA scheduled for 2022-2024. 

researcher on boat collecting water sample and researchers at river bed taking samples

(Left) A researcher collects water samples on Lake Monroe for National Lake Assessment. (Right) Researchers conduct fish and habitat surveys on McGirt's Creek for National Rivers and Streams Assessment.