Habitat is where an organism (plant or animal) lives. The physical characteristics and condition of in-stream and nearstream habitats are an essential component in determining the ecological health of a waterbody. To understand what influences and changes in biological communities are caused by natural variations and which are caused by anthropogenic impacts, it is necessary to assess habitats using qualitative and quantitative habitat methods. Habitats vary naturally within streams and from stream to stream, and habitat differences are exhibited in the variation of biological communities occupying and utilizing a habitat.
The Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (QHEI) method developed by Rankin and Yoder (OEPA, 2006) was utilized to assess habitat quality. The QHEI, was designed to evaluate physical conditions related to aquatic life communities and provide a link between stream habitat and biological condition. Because the methodology provides a means to link habitat data to other data collected, statistical comparisons and assessments can be made. The index is based on six categories needed to support aquatic life. Each category is recorded and scored on the QHEI Habitat Evaluation Index and Use Assessment Field Sheet (QHEI Field Sheet). Scores from each category are summed for an overall habitat score (scores can range from 0 to 100). Currently results for habitat have not been included in the data available for download on the KCWaters.org website, due to a need to modify the underlying database to accommodate this data.