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Rapid assessment of aquatic ecosystems has been widely implemented, sometimes without thorough evaluation of the robustness of rapid assessment metrics as indicators of ecological integrity. Here, we evaluate whether the Ohio Rapid Assessment Method (ORAM) for Wetlands Version 5.0 is a useful indicator of ecological integrity beyond its intended purpose. ORAM was developed to categorize natural wetlands for regulatory purposes and to contribute to the development of indicators of biotic integrity. It was never intended for use as an index of the quality of habitat for wetland birds. Nonetheless, it is conceivable that ORAM scores could serve as adequate predictors of avian diversity. We evaluated whether avian species richness in wetlands could be reliably predicted from each of the following variables: (1) total ORAM score, (2) total score minus the score for one metric that did not apply to all wetlands, and (3) sum of scores for the four ORAM components (of 16 scored) with the highest potential point total. These four components corresponded to aquatic vegetation communities, microtopography, modifications to natural hydrologic regime, and sources of water. All three variables were significant predictors of both total species richness and mean species richness of birds of conservation concern. Variable (3) was a significant predictor of mean species richness of wetland-dependent birds. Variable (2) was a weak predictor of both total and mean species richness of all birds combined. These results extend the robustness of ORAM as an indicator of the ecological integrity of wetlands.
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Rapid assessment indicator of wetland integrity as an unintended predictor of avian diversity