Evaluation of benthic assessment methodology in Southern California Bays and San Francisco Bay

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Benthic invertebrates are important components of aquatic food webs that are sensitive to changes in environmental condition, which makes them ideal candidates for monitoring. However, assessments of benthic community data are difficult because biological communities are complex. Dozens of species and hundreds of organisms are often found in a single sample, with numbers and species of organisms varying from habitat to habitat. To improve environmental assessments, scientists have developed biological indices that reduce complex data to single values useful for evaluating community health using thresholds of concern and for tracking trends in benthic condition. In California, biological indices with distinctly different approaches have been designed for use in two specific regions. A Benthic Response Index (BRI) was developed recently for the bays and harbors of southern California and an Index of Biological Integrity (IBI) was developed recently for San Francisco Bay. This study develops a BRI in San Francisco Bay and an IBI in southern California and compares results for the two benthic assessment methods at the same sampling sites.

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