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A Candidate Vegetation Index of Biological Integrity Based on Species Dominance and Habitat Fidelity

January 1, 2015

Indices of biological integrity of wetlands based on vascular plants (VIBIs) have been developed in many areas of the USA and are used in some states to make critical management decisions. An underlying concept of all VIBIs is that they respond negatively to disturbance. The Ohio VIBI (OVIBI) is calculated from 10 metrics, which are different for each wetland vegetation class. We present a candidate vegetation index of biotic integrity based on floristic quality (VIBI-FQ) that requires only two metrics to calculate an overall score regardless of vegetation class. These metrics focus equally on the critical ecosystem elements of diversity and dominance as related to a species’ degree of fidelity to habitat requirements. The indices were highly correlated but varied among vegetation classes. Both indices responded negatively with a published index of wetland disturbance in 261 Ohio wetlands. Unlike VIBI-FQ, however, errors in classifying wetland vegetation may lead to errors in calculating OVIBI scores. This is especially critical when assessing the ecological condition of rapidly developing ecosystems typically associated with wetland restoration and creation projects. Compared to OVIBI, the VIBI-FQ requires less field work, is much simpler to calculate and interpret, and can potentially be applied to all habitat types. This candidate index, which has been “standardized” across habitats, would make it easier to prioritize funding because it would score the “best” and “worst” of all habitats appropriately and allow for objective comparison across different vegetation classes.

Publication Year 2015
Title A Candidate Vegetation Index of Biological Integrity Based on Species Dominance and Habitat Fidelity
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolind.2014.10.029
Authors Brian D Gara, Martin A. Stapanian
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Indicators
Index ID 70133830
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center