An expanded fish-based index of biotic integrity for Great Lakes coastal wetlands

Matthew J. Cooper, Gary A. Lamberti, Ashley H. Moerke, Carl R. Ruetz, Douglas A. Wilcox, Valerie J Brady, Terry N. Brown, Jan J.H. Ciborowski, Joseph P. Gathman, Greg P. Grabas, Lucinda B. Johnson, Donald G. Uzarski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Biotic indicators are useful for assessing ecosystem health because the structure of resident communities generally reflects abiotic conditions integrated over time. We used fish data collected over 5 years for 470 Great Lakes coastal wetlands to develop multi-metric indices of biotic integrity (IBI). Sampling and IBI development were stratified by vegetation type within each wetland to account for differences in physical habitat. Metrics were evaluated against numerous indices of anthropogenic disturbance derived from water quality and surrounding land-cover variables. Separate datasets were used for IBI development and testing. IBIs were composed of 10–11 metrics for each of four vegetation types (bulrush, cattail, water lily, and submersed aquatic vegetation). Scores of all IBIs correlated well with disturbance indices using the development data, and the accuracy of our IBIs was validated using the testing data. Our fish IBIs can be used to prioritize wetland protection and restoration efforts across the Great Lakes basin. The IBIs will also be useful in monitoring programs mandated by the Agreement between Canada and the United States of America on Great Lakes Water Quality, such as for assessing Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) in Great Lakes Areas of Concern, and in other ecosystem management programs in Canada and the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number580
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments Funding for the wetland monitoring program that generated data for this study was provided by the Great Lakes National Program Office under the United States Environmental Protection Agency, grant number GL-00E00612-0. Although the research described in this work has been partly funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it has not been subjected to the agency’s required peer and policy review and therefore does not necessarily reflect the views of the agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. This paper is Contribution Number 103 of the Central Michigan University Institute for Great Lakes Research. We thank the many students, research assistants, and technicians who participated in the project. Support for MJC was provided by an Arthur J. Schmitt Presidential Fellowship, an NSF-IGERT GLOBES Fellowship, and a Center for Environmental Science and Technology-Bayer Fellowship from the University of Notre Dame.


  • Bioassessment
  • Biotic indicator
  • Coastal marsh
  • Fish
  • Land use
  • Laurentian Great Lakes
  • Water quality
  • Wetland

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