Biocriteria for Puget Sound

BIOCRITERIA FOR PUGET SOUND: A SUMMARY OF PHASES I THROUGH III

Charles M. Eaton
Bio-Marine Enterprises

INTRODUCTION

Development of biocriteria depends on the premise that population and condition parameters of marine biota provide a sensitive screening tool for assessing the condition of a water resource (M.L. Bowman et. al., 1997). The purpose of the biocriteria effort is to incorporate biotic health and ecological metrics derived from the sampling of multiple biological assemblages into a broad-based index using natural reference conditions as benchmarks--the biocriteria. Once biocriteria are developed, based on minimally impaired reference conditions, sites are evaluated to determine how well they measure up against the criteria. The greater the discrepancy, the greater the potential impairment of the water resource. The biocriteria should be carefully developed so as to closely represent the natural biota, provide the sensitivity to identify marginally disturbed sites, protect areas against further degradation, and stimulate restoration of degraded sites. These biological measures should be based on sound scientific principles which are quantifiable and written to protect or enhance the designated use. To account for a measure’s natural variability in a healthy environment, the criterion should be designed to accommodate seasonality and should be defined as a range rather than as a discrete value, often represented graphically as box plots. By linking the assessment and clean-up of environmental impairment to a biological index, the goal is to make the evaluation process not only much more meaningful—both socially and ecologically—but also much more economical.

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