Development of a rapid bioassessment method and index of biotic integrity for estuaries located along the northwest Gulf of Mexico

George Joseph Guillen, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Recently it has been proposed that the evaluation of effects of pollutants on aquatic organisms can provide an early warning system of potential environmental and human health risks (NRC 1991). Unfortunately there are few methods available to aquatic biologists to conduct assessments of the effects of pollutants on aquatic animal community health. The primary goal of this research was to develop and evaluate the feasibility of such a method. Specifically, the primary objective of this study was to develop a prototype rapid bioassessment technique similar to the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) for the upper Texas and Northwestern Gulf of Mexico coastal tributaries. The IBI consists of a series of "metrics" which describes specific attributes of the aquatic community. Each of these metrics are given a score which is then subtotaled to derive a total assessment of the "health" of the aquatic community. This IBI procedure may provide an additional assessment tool for professionals in water quality management. The experimental design consisted primarily of compiling previously collected data from monitoring conducted by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) at five bayous classified according to potential for anthropogenic impact and salinity regime. Standardized hydrological, chemical, and biological monitoring had been conducted in each of these watersheds. The identification and evaluation of candidate metrics for inclusion in the estuarine IBI was conducted through the use of correlation analysis, cluster analysis, stepwise and normal discriminant analysis, and evaluation of cumulative distribution frequencies. Scores of each included metric were determined based on exceedances of specific percentiles. Individual scores were summed and a total IBI score and rank for the community computed. Results of these analyses yielded the proposed metrics and rankings listed in this report. Based on the results of this study, incorporation of an estuarine IBI method as a water quality assessment tool is warranted. Adopted metrics were correlated to seasonal trends and less so to salinity gradients observed during the study (0-25 ppt). Further refinement of this method is needed using a larger more inclusive data set which includes additional habitat types, salinity ranges, and temporal variation.

Subject Area

Environmental science|Aquaculture|Fish production|Ecology|Oceanography

Recommended Citation

Guillen, George Joseph, "Development of a rapid bioassessment method and index of biotic integrity for estuaries located along the northwest Gulf of Mexico" (1996). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9736140.