Physical habitat was quantified in 105 randomly selected streams across the Northern Lakes and Forests Ecoregion during 1998 and 1999 to develop a stream habitat index for the region. Physical habitat measures (106) were classified into four groups: substrate, instream cover, riparian zone-land use, and geomorphology-hydrology. Variable reduction procedures yielded seven variables: sinuosity, percent of substrate gravel or larger, percent substrate as detritus or muck, percent of bank with forested cover, amount of bank erosion, number of large logs per 100 m, and mean length of pools. Streams were separated by a gradient value of 3 m/km (low N = 70; high N = 35) and assigned to model and test data sets. For low-gradient streams in the model data set, the seven habitat variables explained 47% of the variation in index of biotic integrity (IBI) scores. To produce the habitat index, the coefficients in the regression were used to weight each of the seven variables. For low-gradient streams in the test data set, the habitat index explained 20% of the variation in IBI scores. A habitat index could not be developed for high-gradient sites, probably due to the low number of sites. Comparison of habitat to IBI scores provides resource managers with a method to evaluate the contribution of habitat quality to the IBI score.
Additional publication details
Development of a stream habitat index for the Northern Lakes and Forests Ecoregion