Our premise is that measures of ecological indicators and habitat conditions will vary between reference standard sites and reference sites that are impacted, and that these measures can be applied consistently across a regional gradient in the form of a Regional Index of Biological Integrity (RIBI). Six principles are proposed to guide development of any RIBI: 1) biological communities with high integrity are the desired endpoints; 2) indicators can have a biological, physical, or chemical basis; 3) indicators should be tied to specific stressors that can be realistically managed; 4) linkages across geographic scales and ecosystems should be provided; 5) reference standards should be used to define target conditions; and 6) assessment protocols should be efficiently and rapidly applied. To illustrate how a RIBI might be developed, we show how four integrative bioindicators can be combined to develop a RIBI for forest riparian ecosystems in the Mid-Atlantic states: 1) macroinvertebrate communities, 2) amphibian communities, 3) avian communities, and 4) avain productivity, primarily for the Louisiana waterthrush (Seirius motacilla). By providing a reliable expression of environmental stress or change, a RIBI can help managers reach scientifically defensible decisions.
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