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.
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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.
Guest editors: C. K. Feld, A. Borja, L. Carvalho & D. Hering / Water bodies in Europe: integrative systems to assess ecological status and recovery
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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
- Ecological status assessment
- Transitional waters
- Water Framework Directive
- Ecological indicator