Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Thomas G. Jones

Second Advisor

Frank S. Gilliam

Third Advisor

John J. Enz


The study of tropical aquatic systems has been limited. Research in developing countries can be challenging due to inadequate resources and cultural variety. Generally, efforts are concentrated on developing and maintaining economic stability rather than ecological sustainability. The aim of this project was to preliminarily develop and utilize a rapid bioassessment protocol (RBP) for the Monkey River watershed in Belize by determining which metrics best described overall stream health. Like biomonitoring protocols already established for temperate systems, a regional tropical aquatic watershed monitoring program should provide information including stream and watershed health. These protocols score systems on a variety of parameters including water chemistry, land use, stream physiognomy, and biological components. Since an understanding of tropical aquatic environments cannot be gained through studying temperate systems, this project was necessary. Human impacts are an important factor in aquatic systems. Changes in land use practices in a watershed can drastically alter stream processes. The RPB used measures of basic water chemistry and stream morphometrics. The protocol included categorical assessment of biological attributes of each reach. Land cover was determined using satellite imagery and ground truth data. Results from human impact assessment, land cover determination, and the RBP were compared to show trends in the aquatic ecosystem of the Monkey River basin. Few factors measured using the RBP showed significant trends with regard to human impact. Temperature, pH, fish, and algae all showed trends with increasing human impacts. PCA showed that pH, specific conductivity, depth, and riparian zone width were important in determining differences among sites. Future studies including continuous monitoring of land use and stream ecosystems may show evidence of how land affects streams in Belize.


Watershed ecology.

Watershed management - Belize.

Monkey River Watershed - Environmental conditions.