Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 51, Issue 1–2, pp 131–143

Towards a Regional Index of Biological Integrity: the Example of Forested Riparian Ecosystems

  • Robert P. Brooks
  • Timothy J. O'Connell
  • Denice H. Wardrop
  • Laura E. Jackson


Our premise is that measures of ecological indicators and habitat conditions will vary between reference standard sites and reference sites that are impacted, and that these measures can be applied consistently across a regional gradient in the form of a Regional Index of Biological Integrity (RIBI). Six principles are proposed to guide development of any RIBI: 1) biological communities with high integrity are the desired endpoints; 2) indicators can have a biological, physical, or chemical basis; 3) indicators should be tied to specific stressors that can be realistically managed; 4) linkages across geographic scales and ecosystems should be provided; 5) reference standards should be used to define target conditions; and 6) assessment protocols should be efficiently and rapidly applied. To illustrate how a RIBI might be developed, we show how four integrative bioindicators can be combined to develop a RIBI for forest riparian ecosystems in the Mid-Atlantic states: 1) macroinvertebrate communities, 2) amphibian communities, 3) avian communities, and 4) avain productivity, primarily for the Louisiana waterthrush (Seirius motacilla). By providing a reliable expression of environmental stress or change, a RIBI can help managers reach scientifically defensible decisions.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adamus, P. R., and Brandt, K.: 1990, “Impacts on quality of inland wetlands of the United States: A survey of indicators, techniques, and application of community-level biomonitoring data”, U. S. Environ. Prot. Agency, Environ. Res. Lab., Corvallis, OR, EPA/600/3-90/073.Google Scholar
  2. Angermeier, P. L., and Karr, J. R.: 1994, “Biological integrity versus biological diversity as policy directives”, Bioscience 44, 690–697.Google Scholar
  3. Brauning, D. W., ed: 1992, Atlas of breeding birds in Pennsylvania, Univ. Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA. 484pp.Google Scholar
  4. Brinson, M. M.: 1993, “Changes in the functioning of wetland along environmental gradients”, Wetlands 13, 65–74.Google Scholar
  5. Brooks, R. P., and Croonquist, M. J.: 1990, “Wetland, habitat, and trophic response guilds for wildlife species in Pennsylvania”, J. PA Acad. Sci. 64, 93–102.Google Scholar
  6. Brooks, R. P., Croonquist, M. J., D'Silva, E. T., Gallagher, J. E., and Arnold, D. E.: 1991, Selection of biological indicators for integrating assessments of wetland, stream, and riparian habitats, Pages 81–89 in Biological Criteria: Research and Regulation, U.S. Environ. Prot. Agency, Office of Water, EPA-440/5-91-005, Washington, DC, 171pp.Google Scholar
  7. Brooks, R. P., Cole, C. A., Wardrop, D. H., Bishel-Machung, L., Prosser, D. J., Campbell, D. A., and Gaudette, M. T.: 1996, Wetlands, Wildlife, and Watershed Assessment Techniques for Evaluation and Restoration (W3ATER), Volumes 1, 2A, 2B, Final Report to PA Dep. Environ. Prot. and USEPA Region 3, ERRI Rep. No. 9609.Google Scholar
  8. Croonquist, M. J., and Brooks, R. P., 1991, “Use of avian and mammalian guilds as indicators of cumulative impacts in riparian-wetland areas”, Environ. Manage. 15, 701–714.Google Scholar
  9. Croonquist, M. J., and Brooks, R. P.: 1993, “Effects of habitat disturbance on bird communities in riparian corridors”, J. Soil Water Conserv. 48, 65–70.Google Scholar
  10. Day, R. L., Richards, P. L., and Brooks, R. P.: 1997, Chesapeake riparian forest buffer inventory, Final Rep. to Chesapeake Bay Program Office, Annapolis, MD.Google Scholar
  11. Fearer, T. M., Brooks, R. P., and Bradford, D. F.: (in prep.), “Amphibians as ecological indicators for freshwater wetlands and streams in the Ridge and Valley region of Pennsylvania”.Google Scholar
  12. Garano, R. J., and Kooser, J. G.: 1994, “Ordination of wetland insect populations: evaluation of a potential mitigation monitoring tool”, Pages 509–516 in W. J. Mitsch (ed.), Global wetlands, Old world and new, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 967pp.Google Scholar
  13. Hughes, R. M., and Larsen, D. P., and Omernik, J. M.: 1986, “Regional reference sites: a method for assessing stream potentials”, Environ. Manage. 10, 629–635.Google Scholar
  14. Kentula, M. E., Brooks, R. P., Gwin, S. E., Holland, C. C., Sherman, A. D., and Sifneos, J. C.: 1992, An approach to improving decision-making in wetland restoration and creation, Island Press, Washington, DC. 151pp.Google Scholar
  15. Kepner, W. G., Jones, K. B., Chaloud, D. J., Wickham, J. D., Ritters, K. H., O'Neill, R. V.: 1995, Mid-Atlantic landscape indicators project plan, U. S. Environ. Prot. Agency, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program, EPA/620/R-95/003, 37pp.Google Scholar
  16. Leopold, L. B.: 1974, Water, A primer, W. H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco, 172pp.Google Scholar
  17. Magnien, R., Boward, D., and Bieber, S.: 1995, The state of the Chesapeake Bay 1995, U.S. Environ. Prot. Agency, Cheaspeake Bay Program, Annapolis, MD, 45pp.Google Scholar
  18. McKenzie, D. H., Hyatt, D. E., and McDonald, V. J. (eds.), 1992, Ecological indicators, Proc. Int. Symp. Ecological Indicators, 16–19 October 1990, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Elsevier Science Publishers, Ltd., Esses, England, Vols. 1 & 2.Google Scholar
  19. Messer, J. J.: 1992, “Indicators in regional ecological monitoring and risk assessment”, Pages 135–146 in McKenzie, D. H., Hyatt, D. E., and McDonald, V. J. (eds.): Ecological indicators, Proc. Int. Symp. Ecological Indicators, 16–19 October 1990, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Elsevier Science Publishers, Ltd., Esses, England, Vols. 1 & 2.Google Scholar
  20. Miller, J. N., Brooks, R. P., and Croonquist, M. J.: 1997, “Effects of landscape patterns on biotic communities”, Landsc. Ecol., 12, 137–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. National Research Council: 1995, Wetlands, Characteristics and boundaries, National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 307pp.Google Scholar
  22. Noss, R. F.: 1990, “Indicators for monitoring biodiversity: a hierarchical approach”, Conserv. Biol. 4, 355–364.Google Scholar
  23. OÕConnell, T. J., Jackson, L. E., and Brooks, R. P.: 1997, “A bird community index of biotic integrity for the Mid-Atlantic Highlands”, Environ. Monitoring and Assessment, (this issue).Google Scholar
  24. Plafkin, J. L., Barbour, M. T., Porter, K. D., Gross, S. K., and Hughes, R. M.: 1989, Rapid bioassessmet protocols for use in streams and rivers: benthic macroinvertebrates and fish, EPA/444/4-89-001, U. S. Environ. Prot. Agency, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  25. Prosser, D. J. and Brooks, R. P. 1998, “A verified habitat suitability index for Louisiana waterthrush”, J. Field Omith. 69, in press.Google Scholar
  26. Robbins, C. S., Dawson, D. K., and Dowell, B. A.: 1989, “Habitat area requirements of breeding forest birds of the Middle Atlantic State”, Wildl. Monogr. 103.Google Scholar
  27. Robinson, W. D.: 1995, Louisiana waterthrush, No. 151, A. Poole and F. Gill. eds., The birds of North America, Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  28. Salwasser, H.: 1991, “Roles for land and resource managers in conserving biological diversity”, Pages 11–31 in D. L. Decker et al. (eds.), Challenges in the Conservation of Biological Resources: A Practioner's Guide, Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 402pp.Google Scholar
  29. Smith, R. D., Ammann, A., Bartoldus, C., and Brinson, M. M.: 1995., An approach for assessing wetland functions using hydrogeomorphic classification, reference wetlands, and functional indices, U. S. Army Corps. Engin., Waterways Exp. Sta., Wetlands Res. Prog. Tech. Rep. WRP-DE-9, Washington, DC, 79pp.Google Scholar
  30. Sweeney, B. W.: 1992, Streamside forests and the physical, chemical, and trophic characteristics of Piedmont streams in eastern North America, Wat. Sci. Tech. 26, 2653–2673.Google Scholar
  31. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: 1990, Reducing risk: Setting priorities and strategies for environmental protection, Report of the Science Advisory Board: Relative Risk Reduction Strategies Committee, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  32. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: 1991, Biological criteria: research and regulation, Proc. Symp., 12–13 December 1991, Arlington, VA. Washington, DC. 171pp.Google Scholar
  33. Wardrop, D. H.: 1997, The occurrence and impact of sedimentation in central Pennsylvania wetlands, Ph.D. Thesis, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 189pp.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert P. Brooks
    • 1
  • Timothy J. O'Connell
    • 1
  • Denice H. Wardrop
    • 1
  • Laura E. Jackson
    • 2
  1. 1.Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center, Forest Resources LaboratoryPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and DevelopmentResearch Triangle ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations