The Bushkill Stream Conservancy and its partner the Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center are interested in protecting biodiversity and sensitive habitats of the watershed and educating citizens of the watershed about the value of these special places. In many cases these sensitive habitats also protect water quantity and quality, so there are tangible economic benefits to humans as well as nature. The wooded headwaters of the Sobers Run are a good example, as they are critical to water quality of the stream and also provide excellent wildlife habitat.
This connection between biota and environmental quality is exploited in the use of macroinvertebrate studies in stream assessment programs as indicators of water quality, rather than using expensive chemical testing. The presence of sensitive species as well as a large diversity of species indicate high water quality and minimal disturbance of land adjacent to the stream. In the Bushkill, macroinvertebrate studies by Muhlenberg College and Lafayette College show that the tributary steams in the upper watershed are of much higher quality than those in the lower watershed. This is reflective of the differences in land uses in the upper and lower watershed.
Giant stoneflies (shown at right) can be found in the upper Bushkill watershed streams. Giant stoneflies tend to be sensitive to poor water quality and are a good indicator of stream health.
Sensitive Flora and Fauna
Similar to macroinvertebrate studies, the presence/absence of sensitive flora and fauna can be used as a gauge of terrestrial (land-based) environmental health. Habitats with a full complement of native flora and fauna are self-sustaining and more protective of stream quality than those that are physically and biologically degraded. The walking fern shown at left is a rare plant found on some limestone outcrops in the watershed.