Science Inventory

A Review of Indicators of Estuarine Tidal Wetland Condition

Citation:

WEILHOEFER, C. L. A Review of Indicators of Estuarine Tidal Wetland Condition. ECOLOGICAL INDICATORS. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 11:514-525, (2011).

Impact/Purpose:

This review critically evaluates indicators of tidal wetland condition based on 36 indicator development studies and indicators developed as part of U.S. state tidal wetland monitoring programs. Individual metrics were evaluated based on relative scores on two sets of evaluation factors.

Description:

This review critically evaluates indicators of tidal wetland condition based on 36 indicator development studies and indicators developed as part of U.S. state tidal wetland monitoring programs. Individual metrics were evaluated based on relative scores on two sets of evaluation factors. A rigor score evaluated metric development based on conceptual relevance, indicator development method, degree of independent validation, and temporal and spatial extent tested. An applicability score evaluated metrics based on cost of data collection, probable spatial extent of applicability, technical complexity, and indicator responsiveness. The majority of indicators could be classified as biotic condition indicators (81%), with vegetation (37%) and macroinvertebrate (28%) metrics composing the largest proportion. Most metrics provided a conceptual model or scientific justification (97%), were developed by correlation to environmental gradients (46%), were tested over multiple seasons or years (49%) and at multiple sites (88%). Few were independently validated (18%). Average rigor score was 10 (on a scale of 0–25) and ranged between 1 and 21. Highest rigor scores were for trematode community metrics (community similarity index, species richness) and metrics of grass shrimp (Palaemonetes pugio) individuals (gene expression, relative fecundity, embryo hatching success, larval survival). Most metrics had a high cost of data collection (63%), required field and laboratory processing (84%), would be applicable across the U.S. (72%), and were responsive to the variable of interest (44%). Mean applicability score was 4.9 (range: 2–8). Highest scores were found for metrics that only required field collection of data using simple or no instrumentation. Lowest scoring metrics required expensive equipment, specialized taxonomic knowledge, complex laboratory analysis, and/or culturing of organisms. Scores for individual metrics were grouped by indicator, then averaged and rescaled between 0 and 100 to provide a composite evaluation of the indicator they measured. Among major indicator types, biotic indicators had the highest rigor scores (mean = 44, range 20–79), followed by indicators of chemical/physical characteristics (mean = 36, range 16–56), landscape condition (mean = 31, range 24–37), and hydrology/geomorphology indicators (mean = 21, range 4–52). In contrast, biotic indicators scored lowest for applicability (mean = 58, range 25–100) and indicators of landscape condition scored highest. The results of this review suggest that the development and selection of tidal wetland indicators could be vastly improved by employing a standardized development methodology that provides uniform information about each indicator. In addition, tidal wetland indicator research should focus on the development of indicators of ecological processes and disturbance regimes.

URLs/Downloads:

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Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Product Published Date: 03/01/2011
Record Last Revised: 07/11/2011
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 200162

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY

WESTERN ECOLOGY DIVISION

PACIFIC COASTAL ECOLOGY BRANCH