, Volume 51, Issue 1-2, pp 89-106

Maryland Biological Stream Survey: Development of a Fish Index of Biotic Integrity

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Abstract

As a step towards determining the extent of degradation in non-tidal streams, a multi-metric Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) based on fish assemblages was developed for the Maryland Biological Stream Survey (MBSS). The MBSS is a probability-based statewide sampling program designed to assess the status of biological resources and to evaluate the effects of anthropogenic activities. We used data from 419 MBSS sites sampled in 1994-95 to develop the IBI. Two distinct geographic strata, corresponding with ecoregional and physiographic boundaries, were identified via cluster analysis and multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) as supporting distinctly different species groups. Reference conditions were based on minimally degraded sites. We quantitatively evaluated the ability of various attributes of the fish assemblage (candidate metrics) to discriminate between these reference sites and sites known to be degraded, using statistical tests and classification efficiency. Provisional formulations of the IBI were selected for each region based on high classification efficiency and broad representation of fish assemblage attributes. Fish IBI scores for 1995 MBSS sites spanned a wide range of biological conditions, from good to very poor. Over all six basins sampled in 1995, half of the stream miles fell into the range of good to fair. Roughly 25% of stream miles showed some degradation. The IBI will be used in conjunction with physical and chemical data to answer critical questions about the health of Maryland streams and the relative impacts of human-induced stresses on the state's aquatic systems.