This report documents the evaluation of birds as indicators of wetland condition, and the development of a bioassessment tool for headwater riparian areas in southwestern Montana based on songbird communities. As part of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality's Wetland and Assessment program, these biocriteria will be used to evaluate the condition of the state's wetlands. Bird survey methods were tested and refined in 2003 and bird data collected in 2004 were used to develop a multimetric biological index for headwater streams in southwestern Montana. Results of the analysis were used to assess the role of habitat variation, including beaver activity, and make recommendations for improving the state's wetland sampling program to achieve more reliable assessments of bird communities along Montana streams. Implementation of an index of biological integrity will be useful in characterizing the existence and severity of wetland impairment, targeting and prioritizing sites and watersheds for protection and/or restoration, evaluating the effectiveness of restoration efforts, and evaluating the attainment of regional wetland protection goals.
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