Protocols for Selection of Classification System and Reference Conditions: A Comparison of Methods

EPA Grant Number: R828777
Title: Protocols for Selection of Classification System and Reference Conditions: A Comparison of Methods
Investigators: Johnson, Lucinda , Richards, Carl , Host, George E. , Ciborowski, Jan
Current Investigators: Johnson, Lucinda , Richards, Carl , Schuldt, Jeffrey A. , Host, George E. , Brady, Valerie J , Holland, Jeffrey L. , Hollenhorst, Thomas P. , Breneman, Dan , Ciborowski, Jan , Gathman, Joseph
Institution: University of Minnesota - Duluth
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: March 26, 2001 through March 25, 2004 (Extended to March 25, 2005)
Project Amount: $707,404
RFA: Development of National Aquatic Ecosystem Classifications and Reference Conditions (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Aquatic Ecosystems


The specific goals of our proposal are to:
1) Apply an a priori classification system to Great Lakes coastal ecosystems;
2) Quantitatively identify reference sites within classification units using extrinsic, spatial data bases;
3) Define reference biological conditions for classification units;
4) Use biological data to test the efficacy of reference classifications; and
5) Determine whether degraded biological conditions differ from reference conditions in a subset of classification units.


We will combine an a priori classification system, pressure indicators quantifying the degree of anthropogenic impact, and biotic communities in an iterative process to identify the most useful level of classification and reference conditions within the classification system. To initiate this iterative process we will apply a highly specific classification system to Great Lakes coastal ecosystems. The degree of anthropogenic influence on individual ecosystems will be assessed extrinsically from remote sensed data and spatial data bases. Within classification units, reference ecosystems will be identified as those sites with the least amount of anthropogenic influence. We will then define the biotic (macrobenthos and fish) conditions of these reference ecosystems. If we cannot identify unique reference biotic conditions at the most specific level of classification, we will refine our classification system using agglomerative approaches. Because of the potential interdependence of the classification system and the reference conditions identified within the system, this process is not completely subject to quantitative testing. We have, however, introduced quantitative decision points in the process. We will also test whether the biological conditions at degraded sites differ from reference conditions for a subset of our classification units.

Expected Results:

The proposed research will identify scientifically defensible protocols for selecting an appropriate classification system and defining reference conditions. These protocols will rely on a combination of readily available, as well as newly collected field data. The methods will be appropriate to large geographic regions with a number of distinct ecosystem types.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 10 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Great Lakes, pressure indicator, classification system, environmental reference condition, biotic reference condition,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Aquatic Ecosystem, Ecology and Ecosystems, Great Lakes, reference condition, coastal environments, anthropogenic impact, comparison of methods, environmental indicators, biological indicators, ecological classification, remotely sensed data

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001 Progress Report
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • Final