Beck, M. W., L. K. Hatch, B. Vondracek, and R. D. Valley. 2010. Development of a macrophyte-based index of biotic integrity for Minnesota lakes. Ecological Indicators 10:968–979.
Traditional approaches for managing aquatic resources have often failed to account for effects of anthropogenic disturbances on biota that are not directly reflected by chemical and physical proxies of environmental condition. The index of biotic integrity (IBI) is a potentially effective assessment method to integrate ecological, functional, and structural aspects of aquatic systems. A macrophyte-based IBI was developed for Minnesota lakes to assess the ability of aquatic plant communities to indicate environmental condition. The index was developed using quantitative point intercept vegetation surveys for 97 lakes that represent a range of limnological and watershed characteristics. We followed an approach similar to that used in Wisconsin to develop the aquatic macrophyte community index (AMCI). Regional adaptation of the AMCI required the identification of species representative of macrophyte communities in Minnesota. Metrics and scaling methods were also substantially modified to produce a more empirically robust index. Regression analyses indicated that IBI scores reflected statewide differences in lake trophic state (R2 = 0.57, F = 130.3, df = 1, 95, p < 0.005), agricultural (R2 = 0.51, F = 83.0, df = 1, 79, p < 0.005), urban (R2 = 0.22, F = 23.0, df = 1, 79, p < 0.005), and forested land uses (R2 = 0.51, F = 84.7, df = 1, 79, p < 0.005), and county population density (R2 = 0.14, F = 16.6, df = 1, 95, p < 0.005). Variance partitioning analyses using multiple regression models indicated a unique response of the IBI to human-induced stress separate from a response to natural lake characteristics. The IBI was minimally affected by differences in sample point density as indicated by Monte Carlo analyses of reduced sampling effort. Our analysis indicates that a macrophyte IBI calibrated for Minnesota lakes could be useful for identifying differences in environmental condition attributed to human-induced stress gradients.