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Development and use of a zooplankton index of wetland quality in the laurentian great lakes basin

Lougheed, Vanessa L., Chow-Fraser, Patricia
Ecological applications 2002 v.12 no.2 pp. 474-486
Brachionus, Moina, aquatic plants, carp, correspondence analysis, ecosystems, environmental monitoring, habitats, marshes, species diversity, vegetation, water quality, zooplankton, Great Lakes
Recent interest in biological monitoring as an ecosystem assessment tool has stimulated the development of a number of biotic indices designed to aid in the evaluation of ecosystem integrity; however, zooplankton have rarely been included in biomonitoring schemes. We developed a wetland zooplankton index (WZI) based on water quality and zooplankton associations with aquatic vegetation (emergent, submergent, and floating‐leaf) that could be used to assess wetland quality, in particular in marshes of the Laurentian Great Lakes basin. Seventy coastal and inland marshes were sampled during 1995–2000; these ranged from pristine, macrophyte‐dominated systems, to highly degraded systems containing only a fringe of emergent vegetation. The index was developed based on the results of a partial canonical correspondence analysis (pCCA), which indicated that plant‐associated taxa such as chydorid and macrothricid cladocerans were common in high‐quality wetlands, while more open‐water, pollution‐tolerant taxa (e.g., Brachionus, Moina) dominated degraded wetlands. The WZI was found to be more useful than indices of diversity (H′, species richness) and measures of community structure (mean cladoceran size, total abundance) for indicating wetland quality. Furthermore, an independent test of the WZI in a coastal wetland of the Great Lakes, Cootes Paradise Marsh, correctly detected moderate improvements in water quality following carp exclusion. Since wetlands used in this study covered a wide environmental and geographic range, the index should be broadly applicable to wetlands in the Laurentian Great Lakes basin, while further research is required to confirm its suitability in other regions and other vegetated habitats.