Environmental Management

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 493-504

First online:

A Quantitative Tool for Assessing the Integrity of Southern Coastal California Streams

  • Peter R. OdeAffiliated withWater Pollution Control LaboratoryDepartment of Fish and Game, Aquatic Bioassessment Laboratory Email author 
  • , Andrew C. RehnAffiliated withChico State University Research Foundation, Aquatic Bioassessment Laboratory
  • , Jason T. MayAffiliated withJason T. May

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We developed a benthic macroinvertebrate index of biological integrity (B-IBI) for the semiarid and populous southern California coastal region. Potential reference sites were screened from a pool of 275 sites, first with quantitative GIS landscape analysis at several spatial scales and then with local condition assessments (in-stream and riparian) that quantified stressors acting on study reaches. We screened 61 candidate metrics for inclusion in the B-IBI based on three criteria: sufficient range for scoring, responsiveness to watershed and reach-scale disturbance gradients, and minimal correlation with other responsive metrics. Final metrics included: percent collector-gatherer + collector-filterer individuals, percent noninsect taxa, percent tolerant taxa, Coleoptera richness, predator richness, percent intolerant individuals, and EPT richness. Three metrics had lower scores in chaparral reference sites than in mountain reference sites and were scored on separate scales in the B-IBI. Metrics were scored and assembled into a composite B-IBI, which was then divided into five roughly equal condition categories. PCA analysis was used to demonstrate that the B-IBI was sensitive to composite stressor gradients; we also confirmed that the B-IBI scores were not correlated with elevation, season, or watershed area. Application of the B-IBI to an independent validation dataset (69 sites) produced results congruent with the development dataset and a separate repeatability study at four sites in the region confirmed that the B-IBI scoring is precise. The SoCal B-IBI is an effective tool with strong performance characteristics and provides a practical means of evaluating biotic condition of streams in southern coastal California.


Benthic macroinvertebrates B-IBI Biomonitoring Mediterranean climate