Regional application of an index of estuarine biotic integrity based on fish communities.

TitleRegional application of an index of estuarine biotic integrity based on fish communities.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsHughes, JE, Deegan, LA, Weaver, MJ, Costa, JE
Pagination250 - 263
Date Published04/2002
ISBN Number0160-8347

We applied an index of estuarine biotic integrity (EBI) to 36 sites in 16 estuaries on Cape Cod and in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, U.S. Two estuaries were sampled in 6 years, from 1988–1999 (Waquoit and Buttermilk Bays), and a total of 14 others in Buzzards Bay were sampled in 1993, 1996, and 1998. Habitats at each site were classified as either low or medium quality by density and biomass of submerged rooted vegetation (eelgrass). The EBI and its metrics (fish abundance, biomass, total species, species dominance, life history, and proportion by life zone) were successful in classifying habitat quality. Greatest success and least bias of the EBI and its metrics in classifying habitat quality occurred when eelgrass habitats were least degraded. The EBI tracked habitat degradation over time in Waquoit and Buttermilk Bays. Average EBI values in medium-quality habitats of Buzzards Bay estuaries during 1996 and 1998 were less than expected based on earlier EBI values from Waquoit and Buttermilk Bays, suggesting that many of these sites are in transition from medium to low quality. Our results indicate that the EBI is sensitive to habitat quality change, and further suggest that low-quality habitats may approach a stable fish community structure that is well reflected by the EBI. The relationship of the EBI to an independent measure of water quality demonstrated inherent time lags between the degradation and improvement of water quality, fish habitat, and response of the fish community.

Short TitleEstuaries