Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 45-61

First online:

Selecting Indicator Species to Monitor Ecological Integrity: A Review

  • Vincent CarignanAffiliated withDépartement de biologie, Université de Moncton
  • , Marc-André VillardAffiliated withDépartement de biologie, Université de Moncton Email author 

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We review critical issues that must be considered when selectingindicator species for a monitoring program that aims to maintainor restore ecological integrity. First, we examine the pros andcons of different management approaches on which a conservationprogram can be based and conclude that ecosystem management ismost appropriate. We then identify potential indicators ofecological integrity at various levels of the ecosystem, with aparticular emphasis on the species level. We conclude that,although the use of indicator species remains contentious, it canbe useful if (1) many species representing various taxa and lifehistories are included in the monitoring program, (2) theirselection is primarily based on a sound quantitative databasefrom the focal region, and (3) caution is applied wheninterpreting their population trends to distinguish actualsignals from variations that may be unrelated to thedeterioration of ecological integrity. Finally, we present anddiscuss different methods that have been used to select indicatorspecies.

birds bogs conservation ecological integrity ecosystem management forest indicator species