South Atlantic LCC

Setting a course for a sustainable landscape

2 week comment period for Estuarine Indicators

The Estuarine Ecosystem Team now has recommendations for revisions to your cooperative's Estuarine Indicators. These changes are now open for comment until August 18th. You can either comment at the bottom of this post or email me directly (

Here are the proposed changes to the Estuarine Indicators:

Index of Coastal Condition

This index measures the overall abiotic condition of the system, is well monitored, and is synthesized by the EPA every 5 years. It integrates measures of water quality, sediment quality, benthic habitat quality, coastal wetlands and fish tissue contaminants. Learn more

Proposed change: Use 3 of the 5 measures in the index (water quality, sediment quality, and benthic habitat quality). Coastal wetlands is too strongly correlated with other indicators and fish tissue contaminants isn't measured at enough points to provide subregional detail.

View GIS layer

Index of Estuarine Birds Index of Wetland Structure

Proposed change: Current estuarine bird index models treat all estuarine wetlands as equal and are not capturing variations in key ecosystem features. The Estuarine Ecosystem Indicator Revision Team is currently exploring ways to integrate both wetland patch size and area of open water - vegetation edge into an Index of Wetland Structure. This should capture important areas both for estuarine birds but also for shrimp, crabs, fish, and other nekton.

Number of low impervious surface catchments

Impervious cover is easy to monitor and model, widely used and understood by diverse partners, and is strongly linked to water quality and freshwater inflow

Proposed change: None

View GIS layer

Indicators to be used to calculate Estuarine integrity:

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Comment by Rua Mordecai on August 5, 2014 at 1:59pm

Excellent. Thanks, John.

Comment by John Tirpak on August 5, 2014 at 1:50pm

Ali Leggett recently published her thesis on habitat associations of birds (e.g., clapper rail, seaside sparrow, and least bittern) in Mississippi tidal marsh.  Tables 2.10 and 2.11 contain info on predictive models for these species based on edge and acreages at different scales.  Perhaps something in here might help.  I'll send you a copy of her thesis.

Comment by Rua Mordecai on August 5, 2014 at 12:07pm

Capturing habitat suitability for a suite of key species is a major intent of this indicator. There are a number of strong ties in the literature between these metrics and specific species (like clapper rails, blue crab, and shrimp) but so far it's been hard to find strong species-based thresholds to use in categorizing the indicator values. For example, shrimp seem to essentially have a linear relationship with wetland patch size. Do you have some suggested papers/sources demonstrating species specific thresholds in wetland patch size and/or open water - vegetation edge? That could really help improve the explicit tie with species

As for the name, consider it a place holder. The estuarine indicator revision team didn't come up with an official name for this potential metric it's exploring. Brad and I put it together since we needed something to call it. I'll make sure to bring up to the larger revision team the idea of calling it the "Index of wetland habitat" to emphasize that connection to species. 

Comment by John Tirpak on August 5, 2014 at 11:17am

So there are now NO species identified as indicators for this system?

I would like to see an explicit tie between your index of wetland structure and habitat suitability for a suite of key species -  perhaps clapper rail, diamondback terrapin, and shrimp.  Perhaps call this an "Index of Wetland Habitat" to ensure it maintains a connection to species' needs.

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