Development and validation of a macroinvertebrate index of biotic integrity (IBI) for assessing urban impacts to Northern California freshwater wetlands
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Despite California policies requiring assessment of ambient wetland condition and compensatory wetland mitigations, no intensive monitoring tools have been developed to evaluate freshwater wetlands within the state. Therefore, we developed standardized, wadeable field methods to sample macroinvertebrate communities and evaluated 40 wetlands across Northern California to develop a macroinvertebrate index of biotic integrity (IBI). A priori reference sites were selected with minimal urban impacts, representing a best-attainable condition. We screened 56 macroinvertebrate metrics for inclusion in the IBI based on responsiveness to percent urbanization. Eight final metrics were selected for inclusion in the IBI: percent three dominant taxa; scraper richness; percent Ephemeroptera, Odonata, and Trichoptera (EOT); EOT richness; percent Tanypodinae/Chironomidae; Oligochaeta richness; percent Coleoptera; and predator richness. The IBI (potential range 0–100) demonstrated significant discriminatory power between the reference (mean = 69) and impacted wetlands (mean = 28). It also declined with increasing percent urbanization (R 2 = 0.53, p < 0.005) among wetlands in an independent validation dataset (n = 14). The IBI was robust in showing no significant bias with environmental gradients. This IBI is a functional tool to determine the ecological condition at urban (stormwater and flood control ponds), as well as rural freshwater wetlands (stockponds, seasonal wetlands, and natural ponds). Biological differences between perennial and non-perennial wetlands suggest that developing separate indicators for these wetland types may improve applicability, although the existing data set was not sufficient for exploring this option.
KeywordsIBI Lentic Pond Stock pond Bioassessment Biomonitoring
We thank R Mazor and E Stein for constructive comments on the manuscript; J Carter for assisting with subsampling methods; J Ball and S Feirer for assistance with GIS analyses; M Groff for assisting with the pilot study at Hog Lake, R Mazor and A Rehn for statistical advice; C Seibold for nutrient analyses; C Dunn, S Osman, K Yao, J Xin, M Aghaee, M Baragona, A Strother for assistance with field and laboratory work; Hopland Research and Extension Center, East Bay Regional Parks, Alameda Flood Control and Water Conservation District, and Cities of Novato, Davis, Oakley for sites access. This work was funded with assistance from the Alameda Countywide Cleanwater Program, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, and EPA STAR Fellowship Program.
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