Macroinvertebrate community, fish community, water-quality, and habitat data collected from 36 sites in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain Ecoregion during 1996-98 by the U.S. Geological Survey were considered for a multimetric test of ecological integrity. Test metrics were correlated to site scores of a Detrended Correspondence Analysis of the fish community (the biological community that was the most statistically significant for indicating ecological conditions in the ecoregion) and six metrics--four fish metrics, one chemical metric (total ammonia plus organic nitrogen) and one physical metric (turbidity)--having the highest correlations were selected for the index. Index results indicate that sites in the northern half of the study unit (in Arkansas and Missouri) were less degraded than sites in the southern half of the study unit (in Louisiana and Mississippi). Of 148 landscape variables evaluated, the percentage of Holocene deposits and cotton insecticide rates had the highest correlations to index of ecological integrity results. sites having the highest (best) index scores had the lowest percentages of Holocene deposits and the lowest cotton insecticide use rates, indicating that factors relating to the amount of Holocene deposits and cotton insecticide use rates partially explain differences in ecological conditions throughout the Mississippi Alluvial Plain Ecoregion.
An index of ecological integrity for the Mississippi alluvial plain ecoregion: index development and relations to selected landscape variables