Sensitivity analysis to explore responsiveness and dynamic range of multi-metric fish-based indices for assessing the ecological status of estuaries and lagoons

Abstract

Fish-based multi-metric indices are an integral tool in implementing effective water policy initiatives for transitional waters. This study analysed the behaviour of three fish indices (TFCI in the UK, ELFI in France and EFAI in Portugal) developed for monitoring in line with the European Water Framework Directive, by applying a supervised multi-way sensitivity analysis with national monitoring data. The relative variation in the index outcome was analysed under different simulation scenarios by setting metric values at various levels and accounting for the co-variation between metrics. Subsets of key metrics were identified based on their higher influence in determining the index output. Index results under manipulations of metric scores clearly indicated that metric type, number of metrics used and correlations between metrics are important in determining their behaviour. This has implications for implementing management/conservation plans, for example, by prioritising restoration and/or conservation of metrics influencing more the ecological status. Indices including uncorrelated metrics (e.g. EFAI) or metrics with a skewed distribution (e.g. TFCI) are less affected by extreme metric changes, reducing the effectiveness of management actions aimed at improving the ecological status of a water body and thus adjustments may be needed to increase their sensitivity to changes in their metrics.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

References

  1. Benke, K. K., J. L. Steel & J. E. Weiss, 2011. Risk assessment models for invasive species: uncertainty in rankings from multi-criteria analysis. Biological Invasions 13: 239–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Borja, A., S. B. Bricker, D. M. Dauer, N. T. Demetriades, J. G. Ferreira, A. T. Forbes, P. Hutchings, X. P. Jia, R. Kenchington, J. C. Marques & C. B. Zhu, 2008. Overview of integrative tools and methods in assessing ecological integrity in estuarine and coastal systems worldwide. Marine Pollution Bulletin 56: 1519–1537.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Borja, A., A. Ranasinghe & S. B. Weisberg, 2009. Assessing ecological integrity in marine waters, using multiple indices and ecosystem components: challenges for the future. Marine Pollution Bulletin 59: 1–4.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Borja, A., M. Elliott, P. Henriksen & N. Marbà, 2012a. Transitional and coastal waters ecological status assessment: advances and challenges resulting from implementing the European Water Framework Directive. Hydrobiologia. doi:10.1007/s10750-012-1276-9.

  5. Borja, A., A. Uriarte, I. Muxika, G. J. M., M. C. Uyarra, A. Courrat, M. Lepage, M. Elliott, R. Pérez-Domínguez, M. C. Alvarez, A. Franco, H. Cabral, S. Pasquaud, V. Fonseca & J. M. Neto, 2012b. Report detailing multimetric fish-based indices sensitivity to anthropogenic and natural pressures, and to metrics’ variation range WISER Deliverable D4.4-3 [available on internet at http://www.wiser.eu/results/deliverables/].

  6. Breine, J. J., J. Maes, P. Quataert, E. Van den Bergh, I. Simoens, G. Van Thuyne & C. Belpaire, 2007. A fish-based assessment tool for the ecological quality of the brackish Schelde estuary in Flanders (Belgium). Hydrobiologia 575: 141–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Breine, J., P. Quataert, M. Stevens, F. Ollevier, F. A. M. Volckaert, E. Van den Bergh & J. Maes, 2010. A zone-specific fish-based biotic index as a management tool for the Zeeschelde estuary (Belgium). Marine Pollution Bulletin 60: 1099–1112.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Cabral, H. N., V. F. Fonseca, R. Gamito, C. I. Gonçalves, J. L. Costa, K. Erzini, J. Gonçalves, J. Martins, L. Leite, J. P. Andrade, S. Ramos, A. Bordalo, E. Amorim, J. M. Neto, J. C. Marques, J. E. Rebelo, C. Silva, N. Castro, P. R. Almeida, I. Domingos, L. S. Gordo & M. J. Costa, 2012. Ecological quality assessment of transitional waters based on fish assemblages in Portuguese estuaries: the Estuarine Fish Assessment Index (EFAI). Ecological Indicators 19: 144–153.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Carstensen, J., D. Krause-Jensen, S. Markager, K. Timmermann & J. Windolf, 2012. Water clarity and eelgrass responses to nitrogen reductions in the eutrophic Skive, Fjord, Denmark. Hydrobiologia. doi:10.1007/s10750-012-1266-y

  10. Coates, S., A. Waugh, A. Anwar & M. Robson, 2007. Efficacy of a multi-metric fish index as an analysis tool for the transitional fish component of the Water Framework Directive. Marine Pollution Bulletin 55: 225–240.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Cooke, R. M. & J. M. Noortwijk, 2000. Generic Graphics for Uncertainty and Sensitivity Analysis. Wiley, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Courrat, A., J. Lobry, D. Nicolas, P. Laffargue, R. Amara, M. Lepage, M. Girardin & O. Le Pape, 2009. Anthropogenic disturbance on nursery function of estuarine areas for marine species. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 81: 179–190.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Dale, V. H. & S. C. Beyeler, 2001. Challenges in the development and use of ecological indicators. Ecological Indicators 1: 3–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Delpech, C., A. Courrat, S. Pasquaud, J. Lobry, O. Le Pape, D. Nicolas, P. Boet, M. Girardin & M. Lepage, 2010. Development of a fish-based index to assess the ecological quality of transitional waters: the case of French estuaries. Marine Pollution Bulletin 60: 908–918.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Drouineau, H., J. Lobry, C. Delpech, M. Bouchoucha, S. Mahevas, A. Courrat, S. Pasquaud & M. Lepage, 2012. A Bayesian framework to objectively combine metrics when developing stressor specific multimetric indicator. Ecological Indicators 13: 314–321.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Elliott, M., A. K. Whitfield, I. C. Potter, S. J. M. Blaber, D. P. Cyrus, F. G. Nordlie & T. D. Harrison, 2007. The guild approach to categorizing estuarine fish assemblages: a global review. Fish and Fisheries 8: 241–268.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Eschenbach, T. G., 1992. Spiderplots versus tornado diagrams for sensitivity analysis. Interfaces 22: 40–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Eschenbach, T. G., 2006. Technical note: constructing tornado diagrams with spreadsheets. The Engineering Economist 51: 195–204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Flanangan, R. & G. Norman, 1993. Risk Management and Construction. Blackwell Science, Oxford.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Franco, A., P. Franzoi & P. Torricelli, 2008a. Structure and functioning of Mediterranean lagoon fish assemblages: a key for the identification of water body types. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 79: 549–558.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Franco, A., M. Elliott, P. Franzoil & P. Torricellil, 2008b. Life strategies of fishes in European estuaries: the functional guild approach. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 354: 219–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Franco, A., P. Torricelli & P. Franzoi, 2009. A habitat-specific fish-based approach to assess the ecological status of Mediterranean coastal lagoons. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 1704–1717.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Franco, A., F. Riccato, P. Torricelli & P. Franzoi, 2010. Fish assemblage response to environmental pressures in the Venice lagoon. Transitional Waters Bulletin 3: 29–44.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Franco, A., A. Pérez-Ruzafa, H. Drouineau, P. Franzoi, E. T. Koutrakis, M. Lepage, D. Verdiell-Cubedo, M. Bouchoucha, A. López-Capel, F. Riccato, A. Sapounidis, C. Marcos, F. J. Oliva-Paterna, M. Torralva-Forero & P. Torricelli (2012). Assessment of fish assemblages in coastal lagoon habitats: effect of sampling method. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. (in press)

  25. Gray, J. S. & M. Elliott, 2009. The Ecology of Marine Sediments, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Halpern, B. S., S. Walbridge, K. A. Selkoe, C. V. Kappel, F. Micheli, C. D’Agrosa, J. F. Bruno, K. S. Casey, C. Ebert, H. E. Fox, R. Fujita, D. Heinemann, H. S. Lenihan, E. M. P. Madin, M. T. Perry, E. R. Selig, M. Spalding, R. Steneck & R. Watson, 2008. A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems. Science 319: 948–952.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Harrison, T. D. & A. K. Whitfield, 2004. A multi-metric fish index to assess the environmental condition of estuaries. Journal of Fish Biology 65: 683–710.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Hering, D., C. K. Feld, O. Moog & T. Ofenbock, 2006. Cook book for the development of a multimetric index for biological condition of aquatic ecosystems: experiences from the European AQEM and STAR projects and related initiatives. Hydrobiologia 566: 311–324.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Hering, D., A. Borja, J. Carstensen, L. Carvalho, M. Elliott, C. K. Feld, A.-S. Heiskanen, R. K. Johnson, J. Moe, D. Pont, A. L. Solheim & W. V. de Bund, 2010. The European Water Framework Directive at the age of 10: a critical review of the achievements with recommendations for the future. Science of the Total Environment 408: 4007–4019.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Jordan, S. J. & P. A. Vaas, 2000. An index of ecosystem integrity for Northern Chesapeake Bay. Environmental Science & Policy 3: 59–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Karr, J. R., 1981. Assessment of biotic integrity using fish communities. Fisheries 6: 21–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Martinho, F., I. Viegas, M. Dolbeth, R. Leitao, H. N. Cabral & M. A. Pardal, 2008. Assessing estuarine environmental quality using fish-based indices: performance evaluation under climatic instability. Marine Pollution Bulletin 56: 1834–1843.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. McLusky, D. S. & M. Elliott, 2004. The Estuarine Ecosystem: Ecology, Threats and Management. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  34. Niemi, G., D. Wardrop, R. Brooks, S. Anderson, V. Brady, H. Paerl, C. Rakocinski, M. Brouwer, B. Levinson & M. McDonald, 2004. Rationale for a new generation of indicators for coastal waters. Environmental Health Perspectives 112: 979–986.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Pérez-Domínguez, R., S. Maci, A. Courrat, M. Lepage, A. Borja, A. Uriarte, J. M. Neto, H. Cabral, V. St Raykov, A. Franco, M. C. Alvarez & M. Elliott, 2012. Current developments on fish-based indices to assess ecological-quality status of estuaries and lagoons. Ecological Indicators 23: 34–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Seegert, G., 2000. The development, use, and misuse of biocriteria with an emphasis on the index of biotic integrity. Environmental Science & Policy 3: 51–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Sumner, J., T. Ross & L. Ababouch, 2004. Application of risk assessment in the fish industry. FAO fisheries technical paper: 442 pp.

  38. Taylor, M., 2009. What is sensitivity analysis? [available on internet at http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/painres/download/whatis/What_is_sens_analy.pdf].

  39. UNCLOS, 1982. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 10 December 1982 [available on internet at http://www.un.org/Depts/los/index.htm].

  40. UNESCO, 2000. Solving the Puzzle: The Ecosystem Approach and Biosphere Reserves. UNESCO, Paris.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Uriarte, A. & A. Borja, 2009. Assessing fish quality status in transitional waters, within the European Water Framework Directive: Setting boundary classes and responding to anthropogenic pressures. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 82: 214–224.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  42. USEPA, 2000. Estuarine and Coastal Marine Waters: Bioassessment and Biocriteria Technical Guidance. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC: 300.

  43. Vasconcelos, R. P., P. Reis-Santos, V. Fonseca, A. Maia, M. Ruano, S. Franca, C. Vinagre, M. J. Costa & H. Cabral, 2007. Assessing anthropogenic pressures on estuarine fish nurseries along the Portuguese coast: a multi-metric index and conceptual approach. Science of the Total Environment 374: 199–215.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  44. Vose, D., 2000. Risk Analysis. Wiley, Chichester.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Whitfield, A. K. & A. Elliott, 2002. Fishes as indicators of environmental and ecological changes within estuaries: a review of progress and some suggestions for the future. Journal of Fish Biology 61: 229–250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This work was part of the project WISER (Water bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to assess Ecological status and Recovery, www.wiser.eu, Contract No.: 226273) funded by the European Union under the 7th Framework Programme, Theme 6 (Environment including Climate Change). We would like to thank the Environment Agency (EA) of the UK and especially Dr. Steve Coates and Mr. Adam Waugh for their help with the British fish-based index (TFCI) and for providing the WFD surveillance data of British water bodies. We would also like to thank IRSTEA (Institut national de Recherche en Sciences et Technologies pour l’Environnement et l’Agriculture) and especially Dr Mario Lepage for the WFD surveillance data of French water bodies. Finally we would like to thank CO-FCUL (Centro de Oceanografia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa) and especially Dr Henrique Cabral and Dr Stéphanie Pasquaud for their help with the Portuguese EFAI index and providing the WFD surveillance data.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to María C. Alvarez.

Additional information

Guest editors: C. K. Feld, A. Borja, L. Carvalho & D. Hering / Water bodies in Europe: integrative systems to assess ecological status and recovery

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Alvarez, M.C., Franco, A., Pérez-Domínguez, R. et al. Sensitivity analysis to explore responsiveness and dynamic range of multi-metric fish-based indices for assessing the ecological status of estuaries and lagoons. Hydrobiologia 704, 347–362 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-012-1314-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • Fish
  • Ecological status assessment
  • Sensitivity
  • Transitional waters
  • Estuaries
  • Water Framework Directive
  • Ecological indicator
  • TFCI
  • ELFI
  • EFAI