Preservation and restoration of riparian corridors are among the highest priorities for watershed and coastal management; however, no assessment method currently incorporates the range of elements necessary to fully characterize the health of these systems. This paper presents the development of a broad index to comprehensively evaluate riparian ecosystem condition and measure human impacts across a range of elements and scales, and demonstrates its application to a Southern California coastal watershed. Index scores were highly correlated to rankings by experts with several decades of combined knowledge of the watershed, and we believe these to be a more accurate representation of site conditions than B-IBI scores. The index provides a flexible framework which can be tailored for application to local watershed ecologies, while still providing a consistent approach and scoring methodology. Potential applications include comparing riparian reaches, determining suitability and priority for restoration, and quantifying changes over time.
Benthic macroinvertebrates; ecosystem condition index; Mediterranean climate; wetlands