Accurately defining the reference condition for summary biotic metrics: A comparison of four approaches

M.J. Kennard, B.D. Harch, Brad Pusey, A.H. Arthington

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature review

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Protocols for bioassessment often relate changes in summary metrics that describe aspects of biotic assemblage structure and function to environmental stress. Biotic assessment using multimetric indices now forms the basis for setting regulatory standards for stream quality and a range of other goals related to water resource management in the USA and elsewhere. Biotic metrics are typically interpreted with reference to the expected natural state to evaluate whether a site is degraded. It is critical that natural variation in biotic metrics along environmental gradients is adequately accounted for, in order to quantify human disturbance-induced change. A common approach used in the IBI is to examine scatter plots of variation in a given metric along a single stream size surrogate and a fit a line (drawn by eye) to form the upper bound, and hence define the maximum likely value of a given metric in a site of a given environmental characteristic (termed the 'maximum species richness line' - MSRL). In this paper we examine whether the use of a single environmental descriptor and the MSRL is appropriate for defining the reference condition for a biotic metric (fish species richness) and for detecting human disturbance gradients in rivers of south-eastern Queensland, Australia. We compare the accuracy and precision of the MSRL approach based on single environmental predictors, with three regression-based prediction methods (Simple Linear Regression, Generalised Linear Modelling and Regression Tree modelling) that use (either singly or in combination) a set of landscape and local scale environmental variables as predictors of species richness. We compared the frequency of classification errors from each method against set biocriteria and contrast the ability of each method to accurately reflect human disturbance gradients at a large set of test sites. The results of this study suggest that the MSRL based upon variation in a single environmental descriptor could not accurately predict species richness at minimally disturbed sites when compared with SLR's based on equivalent environmental variables. Regression-based modelling incorporating multiple environmental variables as predictors more accurately explained natural variation in species richness than did simple models using single environmental predictors. Prediction error arising from the MSRL was substantially higher than for the regression methods and led to an increased frequency of Type I errors (incorrectly classing a site as disturbed). We suggest that problems with the MSRL arise from the inherent scoring procedure used and that it is limited to predicting variation in the dependent variable along a single environmental gradient.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-170
JournalHydrobiologia
Volume572
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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species richness
species diversity
environmental gradient
disturbance
environmental factors
Water resources
Linear regression
Fish
modeling
satellite laser ranging
Rivers
biological assessment
prediction
environmental stress
methodology
water management
Queensland
eyes
comparison
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Cite this

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title = "Accurately defining the reference condition for summary biotic metrics: A comparison of four approaches",
abstract = "Protocols for bioassessment often relate changes in summary metrics that describe aspects of biotic assemblage structure and function to environmental stress. Biotic assessment using multimetric indices now forms the basis for setting regulatory standards for stream quality and a range of other goals related to water resource management in the USA and elsewhere. Biotic metrics are typically interpreted with reference to the expected natural state to evaluate whether a site is degraded. It is critical that natural variation in biotic metrics along environmental gradients is adequately accounted for, in order to quantify human disturbance-induced change. A common approach used in the IBI is to examine scatter plots of variation in a given metric along a single stream size surrogate and a fit a line (drawn by eye) to form the upper bound, and hence define the maximum likely value of a given metric in a site of a given environmental characteristic (termed the 'maximum species richness line' - MSRL). In this paper we examine whether the use of a single environmental descriptor and the MSRL is appropriate for defining the reference condition for a biotic metric (fish species richness) and for detecting human disturbance gradients in rivers of south-eastern Queensland, Australia. We compare the accuracy and precision of the MSRL approach based on single environmental predictors, with three regression-based prediction methods (Simple Linear Regression, Generalised Linear Modelling and Regression Tree modelling) that use (either singly or in combination) a set of landscape and local scale environmental variables as predictors of species richness. We compared the frequency of classification errors from each method against set biocriteria and contrast the ability of each method to accurately reflect human disturbance gradients at a large set of test sites. The results of this study suggest that the MSRL based upon variation in a single environmental descriptor could not accurately predict species richness at minimally disturbed sites when compared with SLR's based on equivalent environmental variables. Regression-based modelling incorporating multiple environmental variables as predictors more accurately explained natural variation in species richness than did simple models using single environmental predictors. Prediction error arising from the MSRL was substantially higher than for the regression methods and led to an increased frequency of Type I errors (incorrectly classing a site as disturbed). We suggest that problems with the MSRL arise from the inherent scoring procedure used and that it is limited to predicting variation in the dependent variable along a single environmental gradient.",
author = "M.J. Kennard and B.D. Harch and Brad Pusey and A.H. Arthington",
year = "2006",
doi = "DOI 10.1007/s10750-005-0998-3",
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pages = "151--170",
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Accurately defining the reference condition for summary biotic metrics: A comparison of four approaches. / Kennard, M.J.; Harch, B.D.; Pusey, Brad; Arthington, A.H.

In: Hydrobiologia, Vol. 572, 2006, p. 151-170.

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Accurately defining the reference condition for summary biotic metrics: A comparison of four approaches

AU - Kennard, M.J.

AU - Harch, B.D.

AU - Pusey, Brad

AU - Arthington, A.H.

PY - 2006

Y1 - 2006

N2 - Protocols for bioassessment often relate changes in summary metrics that describe aspects of biotic assemblage structure and function to environmental stress. Biotic assessment using multimetric indices now forms the basis for setting regulatory standards for stream quality and a range of other goals related to water resource management in the USA and elsewhere. Biotic metrics are typically interpreted with reference to the expected natural state to evaluate whether a site is degraded. It is critical that natural variation in biotic metrics along environmental gradients is adequately accounted for, in order to quantify human disturbance-induced change. A common approach used in the IBI is to examine scatter plots of variation in a given metric along a single stream size surrogate and a fit a line (drawn by eye) to form the upper bound, and hence define the maximum likely value of a given metric in a site of a given environmental characteristic (termed the 'maximum species richness line' - MSRL). In this paper we examine whether the use of a single environmental descriptor and the MSRL is appropriate for defining the reference condition for a biotic metric (fish species richness) and for detecting human disturbance gradients in rivers of south-eastern Queensland, Australia. We compare the accuracy and precision of the MSRL approach based on single environmental predictors, with three regression-based prediction methods (Simple Linear Regression, Generalised Linear Modelling and Regression Tree modelling) that use (either singly or in combination) a set of landscape and local scale environmental variables as predictors of species richness. We compared the frequency of classification errors from each method against set biocriteria and contrast the ability of each method to accurately reflect human disturbance gradients at a large set of test sites. The results of this study suggest that the MSRL based upon variation in a single environmental descriptor could not accurately predict species richness at minimally disturbed sites when compared with SLR's based on equivalent environmental variables. Regression-based modelling incorporating multiple environmental variables as predictors more accurately explained natural variation in species richness than did simple models using single environmental predictors. Prediction error arising from the MSRL was substantially higher than for the regression methods and led to an increased frequency of Type I errors (incorrectly classing a site as disturbed). We suggest that problems with the MSRL arise from the inherent scoring procedure used and that it is limited to predicting variation in the dependent variable along a single environmental gradient.

AB - Protocols for bioassessment often relate changes in summary metrics that describe aspects of biotic assemblage structure and function to environmental stress. Biotic assessment using multimetric indices now forms the basis for setting regulatory standards for stream quality and a range of other goals related to water resource management in the USA and elsewhere. Biotic metrics are typically interpreted with reference to the expected natural state to evaluate whether a site is degraded. It is critical that natural variation in biotic metrics along environmental gradients is adequately accounted for, in order to quantify human disturbance-induced change. A common approach used in the IBI is to examine scatter plots of variation in a given metric along a single stream size surrogate and a fit a line (drawn by eye) to form the upper bound, and hence define the maximum likely value of a given metric in a site of a given environmental characteristic (termed the 'maximum species richness line' - MSRL). In this paper we examine whether the use of a single environmental descriptor and the MSRL is appropriate for defining the reference condition for a biotic metric (fish species richness) and for detecting human disturbance gradients in rivers of south-eastern Queensland, Australia. We compare the accuracy and precision of the MSRL approach based on single environmental predictors, with three regression-based prediction methods (Simple Linear Regression, Generalised Linear Modelling and Regression Tree modelling) that use (either singly or in combination) a set of landscape and local scale environmental variables as predictors of species richness. We compared the frequency of classification errors from each method against set biocriteria and contrast the ability of each method to accurately reflect human disturbance gradients at a large set of test sites. The results of this study suggest that the MSRL based upon variation in a single environmental descriptor could not accurately predict species richness at minimally disturbed sites when compared with SLR's based on equivalent environmental variables. Regression-based modelling incorporating multiple environmental variables as predictors more accurately explained natural variation in species richness than did simple models using single environmental predictors. Prediction error arising from the MSRL was substantially higher than for the regression methods and led to an increased frequency of Type I errors (incorrectly classing a site as disturbed). We suggest that problems with the MSRL arise from the inherent scoring procedure used and that it is limited to predicting variation in the dependent variable along a single environmental gradient.

U2 - DOI 10.1007/s10750-005-0998-3

DO - DOI 10.1007/s10750-005-0998-3

M3 - Literature review

VL - 572

SP - 151

EP - 170

JO - Hydrobiologia: the international journal of limnology and marine sciences

JF - Hydrobiologia: the international journal of limnology and marine sciences

SN - 0018-8158

ER -