• fish assemblages;
  • fish;
  • rivers/streams;
  • community health;
  • wadeable streams

Abstract:  This study evaluated biological integrity expectations of fish assemblages in wadeable streams for the Alabama portion of the Choctawhatchee River watershed using a multimetric approach. Thirty-four randomly selected stream sites were sampled in late spring 2001 to calibrate an index of biotic integrity (IBI). Validation data were collected during the spring 2001, and summer and fall of 2003 from disturbed and least-impacted targeted sites (n = 20). Thirty-five candidate metrics were evaluated for their responsiveness to environmental degradation. Twelve metrics were selected to evaluate wadeable streams and four replacement metrics were selected for headwater streams. Scores that ranged from 58 to 60 were considered to be representative of excellent biotic integrity (none found in this study), scores of 48-52 as good integrity (31% of the sites in this study), 40-44 as fair (43%), 28-34 as poor (21%), and 12-22 as very poor (5%). Of the four stream condition categories (urban, cattle, row crop, and least impacted), the IBI scores for urban and cattle sites differed significantly from least-impacted sites. Row crop sites, although not significantly different from least-impacted, tended to have greater variability than the other categories. Lower IBI scores at both urban and cattle sites suggest that the IBI accurately reflects stream impairment in the Choctawhatchee River drainage.