Environmental Management

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 470–486 | Cite as

Development of a Bird Integrity Index: Measuring Avian Response to Disturbance in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, USA



The Bird Integrity Index (BII) presented here uses bird assemblage information to assess human impacts to 28 stream reaches in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon. Eighty-one candidate metrics were extracted from bird survey data for testing. The metrics represented aspects of bird taxonomic richness, tolerance or intolerance to human disturbance, dietary preferences, foraging techniques, and nesting strategies that were expected to be positively or negatively affected by human activities in the region. To evaluate the responsiveness of each metric, it was plotted against an index of reach and watershed disturbance that included attributes of land use/land cover, road density, riparian cover, mining impacts, and percent area in clearcut and partial-cut logging. Nine of the 81 candidate bird metrics remained after eliminating unresponsive and highly correlated metrics. Individual metric scores ranged from 0 to 10, and BII scores varied between 0 and 100. BII scores varied from 78.6 for a minimally disturbed, reference stream reach to 30.4 for the most highly disturbed stream reach. The BII responded clearly to varying riparian conditions and to the cumulative effects of disturbances, such as logging, grazing, and mining, which are common in the mountains of eastern Oregon. This BII for eastern Oregon was compared to an earlier BII developed for the agricultural and urban disturbance regime of the Willamette Valley in western Oregon. The BII presented here was sensitive enough to distinguish differences in condition among stream riparian zones with disturbances that were not as obvious or irreversible as those in the agricultural/urban conditions of western Oregon.


Aquatic monitoring Riparian ecosystem condition Stream assessment Index of biotic integrity IBI Bioassessment Riparian birds Disturbance 



I am particularly grateful to Paul Ringold for supporting the project, to Ted Ernst and Tom Kincaid for patient statistical counseling, to Randy Hjort for timely information management output, to Colleen Burch Johnson and Donovan Reves for producing the GIS coverages and metrics, and to Suzanne Pierson for print-worthy illustrations. Also, thanks go to project research partners Mike Bollman and Teresa Magee for efficient field planning and vegetation data coordination. Three reviewers, Joshua Lawler, Bob Hughes, and Brenda McComb, and two anonymous reviewers each provided helpful comments to improve the manuscript.

The research in this article was funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency. This document was prepared at the EPA National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL), Western Ecology Division (WED), in Corvallis, Oregon, through contract 68-D01-005 to Dynamac Corporation. It has been subjected to the agency’s peer and administrative review and approved for publication.

Literature Cited

  1. Able K. P., B. R. Noon. 1976. Avian community structure along elevational gradients in the northeastern United States. Oecologia 26:275–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, S. M. 1990. Status and use of biological indicators for evaluating the effects of stress on fish. Pages 1–8 in S.M. Adams (ed.), Biological indicators of stress in fish. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MarylandGoogle Scholar
  3. Best, L. B., D. F. Stauffer, and A. R. Geier. 1978. Evaluating the effects of habitat alteration on birds and small mammals occupying riparian communities. Pages 117–124 in Proceedings of national symposium on strategies for protection and management of floodplain wetlands and other riparian ecosystems, 11–13 December 1978, Pine Mountain, GeorgiaGoogle Scholar
  4. Bradford D. F., S. E. Franson, A. C. Neale, D. T. Heggem, G. R. Miller, G. E. Canterbury. 1998. Bird species assemblages as indicators of biological integrity in Great Basin rangeland. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 49:1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brooks, R. P., M. J. Croonquist, E. T. D’Silva, and J. E. Gallagher. 1991. Selection of biological indicators for integrating assessments of wetland, stream, and riparian habitats. In Proceedings of biological criteria: Research and regulation. 12–13 December 1990, Arlington, Virginia, EPA-440/5-91-005:110. US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  6. Brooks R. P., T. J. O’Connell, D. H. Wardrop, L. E. Jackson. 1998. Towards a regional index of biological integrity: The example of forested riparian systems. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 51:131–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bryce S. A., R. M. Hughes, P. R. Kaufmann. 2002. Development of a bird integrity index: Using bird assemblages as indicators of riparian condition. Environmental Management 30(2):294–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bryce S. A., D. P. Larsen, R. M. Hughes, P. R. Kaufmann. 1999a. Assessing relative risks to aquatic ecosystems: A mid-Appalachian case study. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 35(1):23–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bryce S. A., J. M. Omernik, D. P. Larsen. 1999b. Ecoregions: A geographic framework to guide risk characterization and ecosystem management. Environmental Practice 1:141–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bureau of the Census 1992. TIGER/Line Files, Census of Population and Housing, 1990, Public Law 94-171 Data. Summary Tape File 1 on CD-ROM, Bureau of the Census, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  11. Cairns J., Jr., P. V. McCormick, B. R. Niederlehner. 1993. A proposed framework for developing indicators of ecosystem health. Hydrobiologia 263:1–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clarke, S. E., and S. A. Bryce (eds.). 1997. Hierarchical subdivisions of the Columbia Plateau and Blue Mountains ecoregions, Oregon and Washington. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-395, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OregonGoogle Scholar
  13. Croonquist M. J., R. P. Brooks. 1991. Use of avian and mammalian guilds as indicators of cumulative impacts in riparian-wetland areas. Environmental Management 15:701–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cully J. F., S. L. Winter. 2000. Evaluation of land condition trend analysis for birds on a Kansas military training site. Environmental Management 25(6):625–633CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davis W. S., T. P. Simon. 1995. Introduction. In W. S. Davis, T. P. Simon (eds.), Biological assessment and criteria: Tools for water resource planning and decision making. Lewis Publisher, Boca Raton, Florida, Pages 3–6Google Scholar
  16. DeGraaf R. M., V. E. Scott, R. H. Hamre, L. Ernst, S. H. Anderson. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. Agricultural Handbook 688. US Forest Service, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  17. Ehrlich P. R., D. S. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: A field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Elmore W., R. L. Beschta. 1987. Riparian areas: Perceptions in management. Rangelands 8:260–265Google Scholar
  19. Fore L. S. 2002. Response of diatom assemblages to human disturbance development and testing of a multimetric index for the Mid-Atlantic Region (USA). In T. P. Simon (ed.), Biological response signatures: Multimetric index patterns for assessment of freshwater assemblages. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida. Pages 445–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fore L. S., J. R. Karr, R. W. Wisseman. 1996. Assessing invertebrate responses to human activities: Evaluating alternative approaches. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 15:212–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hansen A. J., D. L. Urban. 1992. Avian response to landscape pattern: The role of species’ life histories. Landscape Ecology 7(3):163–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hill B. H., A. T. Herlihy, P. R. Kaufmann, R. J. Stevenson, F. H. McCormick, C. Burch Johnson. 2000. Use of periphyton assemblage data as an index of biotic integrity. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 19(1):50–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hughes R. M. 1995. Defining acceptable biological status by comparing with reference conditions. In W. S. Davis, T. P. Simon (eds.), Biological assessment and criteria: Tools for water resource planning and decision making. Lewis Publisher, Boca Raton, Florida. Pages 31–47Google Scholar
  24. Hughes R. M., P. R. Kaufmann, A. T. Herlihy, T. M. Kincaid, L. Reynolds, D. P. Larsen. 1998. A process for developing and evaluating indices of fish assemblage integrity. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 55:1618–1631CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hughes R. M., D. P. Larsen, J. M. Omernik. 1986. Regional reference sites: A method for assessing stream potentials. Environmental Management 10(5):629–635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hunsaker C. T., J. F. McCarthy, L. R. Shugart, R. V. O’Neill. 1990. Indicators relevant to multiple resource categories. In C. T. Hunsaker, D. E. Carpenter (eds.), Ecological indicators for the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program. EPA 600/3-90/060. US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Pages 9-1–9-25Google Scholar
  27. Irwin, L., J. G. Cook, R. A. Riggs, and J. M. Skovlin. 1994. Effects of long term grazing by big game and livestock in the Blue Mountains forest ecosystems. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-325. US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OregonGoogle Scholar
  28. Johnson, C. G., Jr., R. R. Clausnitzer, P. J. Mehringer, and C. D. Oliver. 1994. Biotic and abiotic processes of eastside ecosystems: The effects of management on plant and community ecology, and on stand and landscape vegetation dynamics. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-322. US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OregonGoogle Scholar
  29. Karr J. R., E. W. Chu. 1999. Restoring life in running waters: Better biological monitoring. Island Press, Covelo, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  30. Karr J. R., K. D. Fausch, P. L. Angermeier, P. R. Yant, I. J. Schlosser. 1986. Assessment of biological integrity in running water: A method and its rationale. Special Publication 5. Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  31. Kaufmann, P. R., P. Levine, E. G. Robison, C. Seeliger, and D. V. Peck. 1999. Quantifying physical habitat in wadeable streams. EPA 620/R-99/003. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program, US Environmental Protection Agency, Corvallis, OregonGoogle Scholar
  32. Kerans B. L., J. R. Karr. 1994. A benthic index of biointegrity (B-IBI) for rivers of the Tennessee Valley. Ecological Applications 4:768–785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kimberling D. N., J. R. Karr, L. S. Fore. 2001. Measuring human disturbance using terrestrial invertebrates in the shrub-steppe of eastern Washington (USA). Ecological Indicators 1(2001):63–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Knopf, F. L. 1985. Significance of riparian vegetation to breeding birds across an altitudinal cline. Pages 105–111 in R. R. Johnson, C. D. Zieball, D. R. Patton, P. F. Ffolliott, and R. H. Hamre (eds.), Riparian ecosystems and their management: Reconciling conflicting uses. US Forest Service General Technical Report RM–120. Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
  35. Lehmkuhl, J. F., P. F. Hessburg, R. L. Everett, M. H. Huff, and R. D. Ottmar. 1994. Historical and current forest landscapes of eastern Oregon and Washington. Part 1: Vegetation pattern and insect and disease hazards. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-328. US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OregonGoogle Scholar
  36. Mannan W., M. L. Morrison, E. C. Meslow. 1984. Comment: The use of guilds in forest bird management. Wildlife Society Bulletin 12:426–430Google Scholar
  37. Marshall D. B., M. G. Hunter, and A. L. Contreras (eds.). 2003. Birds of Oregon: A general reference. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, OregonGoogle Scholar
  38. Miller D. L., P. M. Leonard, R. M. Hughes, J. R. Karr, P. B. Moyle, L. H. Schrader, B. A. Thompson, R. A. Daniels, K. D. Fausch, G. A. Fitzhugh, J. R. Gammon, D. B. Halliwell, P. L. Angermeier, D. J. Orth. 1988. Regional applications of an index of biotic integrity for use in water resource management. Fisheries 13(5):12–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Moors, A. K. 1993. Towards an avian index of biotic integrity for lakes. Master’s thesis, Department of Wildlife Management, University of Maine, OronoGoogle Scholar
  40. Muehter, V. R. 2004. Cowbirds and conservation. Available from http://www.audubon.org/bird/research/ (accessed October 2004) (accessed October 2004)
  41. Noss R. F. 1990. Indicators for monitoring biodiversity: A hierarchical approach. Conservation Biology 4:355–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. O’Connell T. J., L. E. Jackson, R. P. Brooks. 2000. Bird guilds as indicators of ecological condition in the central Appalachians. Ecological Applications 10(6):1706–1721CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Odum E. P. 1985. Trends expected in stressed ecosystems. Bioscience 35(7):419–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Odum E. P., J. T. Finn, E. H. Franz. 1979. Perturbation theory and the subsidy-stress gradient. Bioscience 29(6):349–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Oliver, C. D., L. L. Irwin, and W. H. Knapp. 1994. Eastside forest management practices: Historic overview, extent of their applications, and their effects on sustainability of ecosystems. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-324. US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OregonGoogle Scholar
  46. Olsen A. R., J. Sedransk, D. Edwards, C. A. Gotway, W. Liggett, S. Rathbun, K. H. Reckhow, L. J. Young. 1999. Statistical issues for monitoring ecological and natural resources in the United States. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 54:1–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Paulsen S. G., R. A. Linthurst. 1993. Biological monitoring in the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program. In S. L. Loeb, A. Spacie (eds.), Biological monitoring of aquatic systems. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, Florida. Pages 297–322Google Scholar
  48. Peck D. V., J. M. Lazorchak, D. J. Klemm. 2003. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program—Surface Waters: Western pilot study field operations manual for wadeable streams. US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  49. Poole A., F. Gill (eds.). 1999. The Birds of North America. Individual species accounts. Smith-Edwards-Dunlap Co., Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaGoogle Scholar
  50. Robbins, W. G., and D. W. Wolf. 1994. Landscape and the intermontane northwest: An environmental history. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-319. US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OregonGoogle Scholar
  51. Root R.B. 1967. The niche exploitation pattern of the blue-gray gnatcatcher. Ecological Monographs 37:317–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sallabanks R., B. G. Marcot, R. A. Riggs, C. A. Mehl, E. B. Arnett. 2001. Wildlife of eastside (interior) forests and woodlands. In D. H. Johnson, T. A. O’Neil (eds.), Wildlife habitats and species associations in Oregon and Washington. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, Oregon. Pages 213–238Google Scholar
  53. Sanders T. A., W. D. Edge. 1998. Breeding bird community composition in relation to riparian vegetation structure in the western United States. Journal of Wildlife Management 62(2):461–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Severinghaus W.D. 1981. Guild theory development as a mechanism for assessing environmental impact. Environmental Management 5:187–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Simon T. P. 1999. Introduction: Biological integrity and use of ecological health concepts for application to water resource characterization. In T. P. Simon (ed.), Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press, New York. Pages 3–13Google Scholar
  56. Stevens D. L, Jr. 1997. Variable density grid-based sampling designs for continuous spatial populations. Environmetrics 8:167–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Szaro R. 1986. Guild management: An evaluation of avian guilds as a predictive tool. Environmental Management 10:681–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Temple S. A. 1986. Predicting impacts of habitat fragmentation of forest birds: A comparison of two models. In J. Verner, M. L. Morrison, C. J. Ralph (eds.), Wildlife 2000: Modeling habitat relationships of terrestrial vertebrates. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin. Pages 301–304Google Scholar
  59. Terborgh J.W. 1989. Where have all the birds gone? Essays on the biology and conservation of birds that migrate to the American tropics. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  60. Terres J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  61. Thorson, T. D., S. A. Bryce, D. A. Lammers, A. J. Woods, J. M. Omernik, J. Kagan, D. E. Pater, and J. A. Comstock. 2003. Ecoregions of Oregon (color poster with map, descriptive text, summary tables, and photographs). US Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia (map scale 1:1,500,000)Google Scholar
  62. Verner J. 1984. The guild concept applied to management of bird populations. Environmental Management 8:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vogelmann J. E., S. M. Howard, L. Yang, C. R. Larson, B. K. Wylie, N. Van Driel. 2001. Completion of the 1990s National Land Cover Data Set for the Conterminous United States from Landsat Thematic Mapper Data and Ancillary Data Sources. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 67:650–652Google Scholar
  64. Waterhouse F. L., M. H. Mather, D. Seip. 2002. Distribution and abundance of birds relative to elevation and biogeoclimatic zones in coastal old growth forests in southern British Columbia. British Columbia Journal of Ecosystems and Management 2(2):1–13Google Scholar
  65. Wilcove D. S., J. W. Terborgh. 1984. Patterns of population decline in birds. American Birds 38:10–13Google Scholar
  66. Wissmar R. C., J. E. Smith, B. A. McIntosh, H. W. Li, G. R. Reeves, J. R. Sedell. 1994. A history of resource use and disturbance in riverine basins of eastern Oregon and Washington (early 1800’s–1900’s). Northwest Science 68:1–35Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dynamac CorporationCorvallisUSA

Personalised recommendations