Variance partitioning of stream diatom, fish, and invertebrate indicators of biological condition

Freshwater Science
By: , and 



Stream indicators used to make assessments of biological condition are influenced by many possible sources of variability. To examine this issue, we used multiple-year and multiple-reach diatom, fish, and invertebrate data collected from 20 least-disturbed and 46 developed stream segments between 1993 and 2004 as part of the US Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program. We used a variance-component model to summarize the relative and absolute magnitude of 4 variance components (among-site, among-year, site × year interaction, and residual) in indicator values (observed/expected ratio [O/E] and regional multimetric indices [MMI]) among assemblages and between basin types (least-disturbed and developed). We used multiple-reach samples to evaluate discordance in site assessments of biological condition caused by sampling variability. Overall, patterns in variance partitioning were similar among assemblages and basin types with one exception. Among-site variance dominated the relative contribution to the total variance (64–80% of total variance), residual variance (sampling variance) accounted for more variability (8–26%) than interaction variance (5–12%), and among-year variance was always negligible (0–0.2%). The exception to this general pattern was for invertebrates at least-disturbed sites where variability in O/E indicators was partitioned between among-site and residual (sampling) variance (among-site  =  36%, residual  =  64%). This pattern was not observed for fish and diatom indicators (O/E and regional MMI). We suspect that unexplained sampling variability is what largely remained after the invertebrate indicators (O/E predictive models) had accounted for environmental differences among least-disturbed sites. The influence of sampling variability on discordance of within-site assessments was assemblage or basin-type specific. Discordance among assessments was nearly 2× greater in developed basins (29–31%) than in least-disturbed sites (15–16%) for invertebrates and diatoms, whereas discordance among assessments based on fish did not differ between basin types (least-disturbed  =  16%, developed  =  17%). Assessments made using invertebrate and diatom indicators from a single reach disagreed with other samples collected within the same stream segment nearly ⅓ of the time in developed basins, compared to ⅙ for all other cases.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Variance partitioning of stream diatom, fish, and invertebrate indicators of biological condition
Series title Freshwater Science
DOI 10.1899/11-040.1
Volume 31
Issue 1
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher The Society for Freshwater Science
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 9 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Freshwater Science
First page 182
Last page 190
Country United States
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