A benthic index of environmental condition of Gulf of Mexico estuaries
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An index was developed for estuarine macrobenthos in the Gulf of Mexico that discriminated between areas with degraded environmental conditions and areas with undegraded or reference conditions. Test sites were identified as degraded or reference based on criteria for dissolved oxygen levels, sediment toxicity tests, and sediment contamination. Discriminant analysis was used to identify a suite of measures of benthic community composition and diversity that would most successfully distinguish degraded from undegraded sites. The resultant benthic index was composed of a linear combination of three factors: the Shannon-Wiener diversity index, the proportion of total benthic abundance as tubificid oligochaetes, and the proportion of total benthic abundance as bivalve molluscs. This index was used to evaluate the spatial patterns of degraded benthic resources in the Gulf of Mexico.
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