, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 624-635

Refinement, validation, and application of a benthic condition index for Northern Gulf of Mexico estuaries

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Abstract

By applying discriminant analysis to benthic macroinvertebrate data, we have developed an indicator of benthic condition for northern Gulf of Mexico estuaries. The data used were collected by the United states Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) in the Louisianian Province from 1991 to 1994. This benthic index represents a linear combination of the following weighted parameters: the proportion of expected species diversity, the mean abundance of tubificid oligochaetes, the percent of total abundance represented by capitellid polychaetes, the percent of total abundance represented by bivalve mollusks, and the percent of total abundance represented by amphipods. We successfully validated and retrospectively applied the benthic index to all of the benthic data collected by EMAP in the Louisianian Province. This benthic index was also calculated for independent data collected from Pensacola Bay, Florida, in order to demonstrate its flexibility and applicability to different estuarine systems within the same biogeographic region. The benthic index is a useful and valid indicator of estuarine condition that is intended to provide environmental managers with a simple tool for assessing the health of benthic macroinvertebrate communities.