Development of indicators of 'ecosystem health' for the Great Lakes was identified as a major need at the State-of-the-Lakes Ecosystem Conference in 1998, 2000, and 2002. Our goal was to develop an invertebrate-based index of biotic integrity that was robust to water level fluctuations and applied to broad classes of lacustrine wetlands across wave-exposure gradients. Our objectives were to evaluate the performance and test the robustness of our preliminary index (e.g., Burton et al., 1999) at a range of water levels, eliminate any problems with the index of biotic integrity, remove the preliminary status, test the index on similar wetlands of Lake Michigan, and establish stressor:ecological-response relationships. Twenty-two sites, both open- and protected-fringing lacustrine marshes of Lake Huron and Michigan were selected for study. Correspondence analysis and Mann-Whitney U tests were used to test the robustness of existing metrics and search for additional metrics. Wilcoxon Signed Rank tests were used to determine if metrics were responding to inter-annual water level fluctuation. Principal components analysis and Pearson correlations were used to establish stressor:ecological response relationships. Analyses confirmed the utility of most of the metrics suggested in our preliminary index, but we recommended several improvements. With improvements, the index was able to place all sites in a comparable order of disturbance that we placed them a priori based on adjacent landuse/landcover, limnological parameters and observed disturbances. The improved index worked very well from 1998 through 2001 despite the substantial decreases in lake level over this time-period. Analyses of 2001 data collected from similar fringing wetlands along the northern shore of Lake Michigan suggested that the index could also be used for fringing wetlands of northern Lake Michigan. We are confident that our index is ready for implementation as a tool for agencies to use in assessing wetland condition for Lakes Huron and Michigan fringing wetlands.
- Coastal wetlands
- Great Lakes