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Results of validation exercise for Marine Benthic Index

March 1, 2023

Marine benthic invertebrates (benthos) are key components of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Because of their direct association living in, and sometimes consuming, sediments, benthos can be valuable sentinels of ecosystem health. Therefore, indicators of benthic invertebrate community health can serve as direct measures of sediment and water quality.

In 2021, the Puget Sound Partnership funded development of a Marine Benthic Index. The Marine Benthic Index thus developed uses a novel approach that accounts for habitat preferences of the benthic invertebrate species. This report describes the design and results of the exercise conducted to validate the Marine Benthic Index.

The goals of the validation exercise were to determine (a) how well the Marine Benthic Index matches more standard ways of assessing community health and (b) how finely it is possible to distinguish between levels of disturbance. A controlled experiment was devised in which simulated benthic communities were generated to correspond to predetermined levels of disturbance, and experts in benthic ecology determined which communities reflected the more-disturbed conditions. In this way, the index was directly compared to traditional methods of assessing benthic communities.

The results provide strong evidence that the “latent disturbance” model used to derive the Marine Benthic Index is identifying effects that benthic experts recognize as disturbance. Not only did the model agree with the experts overall, but also the probability of agreement strongly increased with increasing difference in disturbance level.

The validation exercise results indicate that the Marine Benthic Index is a reliable method of determining disturbance without the necessity of assuming a priori knowledge of the disturbance. Furthermore, the numerical approach embodied in the Marine Benthic Index has the advantage of being able to find patterns beyond the capability of individual experts to know the effects of human disturbances for all species under all environmental conditions.

Publication Year 2023
Title Results of validation exercise for Marine Benthic Index
Authors Valerie Partridge, Donald Schoolmaster
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Series Number 23-03-009
Index ID 70245590
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center