1993. Thomas, J.D. Biological monitoring and tropical biodiversity in marine environments: a critique with recommendations, and comments on the use of amphipods as bioindicators. Journal of Natural History. 27:795-806.





James Darwin Thomas


Preoccupations with regulatory and legal liability issues in marine environmental monitoring have led to programs based on reductionist models that use non-biological parameters which are indirect measures of biotic condition. The ability to assess the effectiveness of current monitoring programs to protect the marine environment at regional and national scales does not currently exist. Current monitoring programs rarely serve the function for which they were intended: an accurate and sensitive source of information from which conditions and trends can be defined and recognized, and management decisions made. In addition, the natural variability of systems is problematic and must be documented in order to distinguish natural from anthropogenic changes in environmental conditions.

Due to their ecological importance, numerical abundance, and sensitivity to a variety of toxicants and pollutants, amphipod crustaceans have long been known as sensitive environmental indicators. However, application and use of amphipods in such programs is limited to the few regions where ongoing comprehensive taxonomic and natural history investigations have been undertaken.

Potential for amphipods as bioindicators exists in a wide variety of environments, especially in the tropics, but their incorporation into such programs is dependent upon completion of taxonomic surveys and inventories.

--------------------------------------- Keywords: amphipods, biodiversity, biological criteria, coral reefs, index of biotic integrity, marine monitoring


Environmental monitoring and regulatory programs in the United States are estimated to cost over $70 billion annually (EPA, 1990b). In the marine environment, more than $133 million is spent annually on monitoring programs to provide data and information for management decisions and to ensure protection of marine resources (National Research Council, 1990). Despite expenditures of money and resources, and participation by scientists, regulators, and resource managers, monitoring practitioners agree that monitoring programs are in need of vast improvements in design and implementation (NRC op. cit.).

In spite of recent concerns expressed about global biodiversity by various authors, reports, and symposia, no clearly articulated public policy on biodiversity exists (Soulé, 1991), nor has any U.S. organization or agency put forth clear directives. The need for action is especially acute in tropical ecosystems because they house the great majority of the planet's biodiversity. What progress has been made in this area comes from studies of terrestrial moist forest systems. In coral reef systems, very little is known regarding biodiversity, exclusive of corals and reef fish .


The goal of all types of monitoring programs is the protection of the environment and its resources. Data collected from monitoring programs documents existing conditions, and helps document changes in these conditions over time. Lacking prior knowledge of environmental conditions, monitoring establishes a baseline for future comparisons (NRC op. cit.).

In the U.S., regulatory monitoring in the marine environment is mandated by a variety of local, state, and federal statutes including the Federal Water Pollution Control Act; the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act; the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act; and the National Ocean Pollution Research, Development and Monitoring Planning Act. Federal Agencies responsible for these various programs include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), and the Minerals Management Service (MMS) of the Department of the Interior. Numerous state agencies, local authorities, utilities, and industries that discharge materials into coastal ocean waters are also required to conduct marine environmental monitoring programs.

While it was the perception of biological degradation of marine environments that initially stimulated current state and federal legislation on water quality, the biological focus appears to have been lost in the search for easily measured physical and chemical surrogates that are only indirect measures of biological condition (Karr, 1991). The ability to assess the effectiveness of current water quality monitoring programs to protect the marine environment at regional and national scales does not currently exist. By EPA's own estimates, current water quality monitoring programs fail to show biological impairment when it does exist, 36% of the time, and indicates impairment where there is none, 6% of the time (EPA, 1990a). The implementation of a biological criterion approach that directly measures biological integrity is, therefore, essential to documenting the status and trends in coastal marine and estuarine ecosystems.

Marine monitoring programs

Marine monitoring programs are usually long-term, data intensive programs that establishes points of reference for environmental conditions and then attempts to document and identify change in these conditions over time. Programs using macrobenthos and water quality measures are widely used in marine and estuarine settings. Assessment programs, smaller in scope and application, are generally more short-term and data-specific than typical monitoring programs. They are intended to measure specific parameters or conditions. Bioassay is a type of assessment program that uses live organisms to measure a variety of conditions or specific impacts.

Initially, marine environmental monitoring programs employed a variety of univariate indices to summarize environmental condition. The multivariate approach follows a tendency to move away from the univariate approach represented by reductionist univariate measures such as diversity indices or single indicator species (Nelson, 1990). A multivariate index for assessment of habitat quality and degradation called the "Index of Biotic Integrity" , or IBI, was developed for stream fish communities in the U.S. (Karr and Dudley, 1978; Karr et. al., 1986; Karr, 1991). The first IBI's used fish as the primary monitoring organisms because it was felt fish were easy to identify and had more public relevance than macrobenthos. The IBI uses a number of biological variables, or metrics, to assess environmental and habitat quality. Karr et. al, (1986) included 12 metrics in three categories; species richness and composition, trophic composition, and fish abundance and condition. An IBI developed for estuarine fish communities in coastal Louisiana included 13 metrics in similar categories (Thompson and Fitzhugh, 1986). A prototype IBI for estuarine waters proposed by Nelson (1990) included 11 metrics in four categories, and used benthic invertebrates and submerged aquatic vegetation instead of fish.

While the conceptual basis of the IBI appears theoretically sound, development of a marine and estuarine IBI must include modifications for at least two important reasons. Streams are spatially "captive" systems, while marine systems are spatially "open". Establishing monitoring programs in such spatially open systems using highly mobile organisms such as fish can impose formidable problems in implementing effective sampling criteria intended to measure local effects and changes. The two systems also differ dramatically in taxonomic diversity: in streams, the total number of taxa seldom reach more than 50-60 species, while the number of species in marine systems may easily reach 300-400.

Because it is sometimes not possible or practical to establish identical control areas in marine environments, information on baseline components and trend analysis are important sources of data. The value of such a database increases with time as information accumulates and is a process that once started, must remain an ongoing one to be effective. Because analyses are directed at the species level, efforts must be taken to insure that samples are collected, processed, sorted and identified in a consistent and taxonomically competent manner.

The author further suggests that organisms considered for inclusion in marine monitoring programs should be selected with regard to certain criteria. They should be: 1. ecologically and trophically important; 2. numerically dominant at the relevant community level; 3. exhibit a high degree of niche specificity; 4. have a documented sensitivity to a variety of pollutants and toxicants, and; 5. have relatively low dispersion and mobility capabilities. Gammarid amphipods meet these criteria and are already in use as primary biological monitors in several regions in the United States and overseas (EPA, 1990b; Meijering, 1991; Reish and Barnard, 1979).

Introduction to peracarid and amphipod crustaceans:

Approximately 40 percent of all crustaceans are peracaridans. Although smaller in size and less conspicuous than decapods, peracarids are more abundant and widespread than decapods in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats. Because of their size, decapods often dominate faunal surveys of crustacean groups, but peracaridan diversity almost certainly exceeds that of decapods. Peracarids frequently exceed all other crustacean taxa (and often all other invertebrate groups) in numbers and diversity in marine shelf and slope environments. They are also a primary component in deep-sea macrobenthos. Because peracarids lack a pelagic larval stage and have specific habitat requirements, they exhibit low intrinsic rates of dispersal, thus making them excellent candidates for distributional and ecological studies. An exception are some fouling species capable of rafting long distances on flotsam and macroalgae.

Amphipods are the most abundant members of the superorder Peracarida, a large assemblage of eight orders: Mysidacea (450 sp.); Cumacea (900 sp.); Tanaidacea (1,500 sp.); Isopoda (4,000 sp.); Amphipoda (6,000 sp.); Spelaeogriphacea (2 sp.); Mictacea (2 sp.); and Thermosbaenacea (10 sp). Schram (1986) placed amphipods in the Order Edriopthalma as the sister group of the Isopoda, while Watling (1983) considers them to be a Superorder in itself. The Amphipoda are composed of four suborders: Gammaroidea; Ingolfiellidea; Caprellidea; and Hyperiidea.

Gammaridean amphipods are the dominant group of peracaridan crustaceans in shallow seas of the world, including the tropics. They are mostly small and free-living, and can be found nestling in crevices, burrowing in sediments, hovering or swimming above the substrate, and living in fixed or mobile domiciles (tubes). Many species are surface nestlers among algae and seaweeds. Others are cryptic, found tucked among numerous rocky crevices of live coral and coral rubble. Invertebrate hosts (in particular, sponges, tunicates, octocorals, and bryozoans) provide habitat for a variety of commensal amphipods such as the Amphilochidae, Anamixidae, Colomastigidae, Dexaminidae, Leucothoidae, and some Lysianassidae.

Amphipods in environmental monitoring:

Due to their ecological importance, numerical abundance, and sensitivity to a variety of toxicants and pollutants, amphipod crustaceans have long been known as sensitive environmental indicators (Hart and Fuller, 1979). Amphipods lack a pelagic larval stage and are benthic recruiters, thereby minimizing dispersal effects; they exhibit a high degree of habitat specificity and niche requirements; and they are one of the major benthic components in marine systems worldwide, both in terms of biomass and species diversity.

Application and use of amphipods in environmental monitoring has been limited to the few temperate regions where long-term taxonomic and natural history investigations have been undertaken. California currently uses amphipods as primary biological monitors at outfalls. Monitoring programs incorporating amphipods have been used to assess the environmental effects of oil spills in the Persian Gulf, Alaska, and Panama. California and The Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have designated several species of amphipods as bioassay organisms for sediment toxicity tests in soft-bottom environments (EPA, 1990b). Amphipods are so useful as bioindicators that U.S. Government agencies now require their identification to species in permitting operations such as oil leases and outfalls. Potential for the use of amphipods as bioindicators exists in a wide variety of environmental settings. Their incorporation into such programs is dependent upon completion of comprehensive coastal resource inventories and taxonomic surveys.

Besides acute and chronic sensitivities to pollutants and toxicants, amphipods exhibit a number of altered behavioral responses to sublethal levels of a variety of compounds that can cause reduction or elimination of the population (Baker, 1971; Sandberg et al, 1972; Percy, 1976; Lee et al 1977; Linden, 1976a,b). Amphipods have been found to be more sensitive than other species of invertebrates (decapods, polychaetes, mollusks, and asteroids) to a variety of contaminants (Ahsanullah, 1976; Swartz, 1987; Swartz et al 1985). Furthermore, amphipods have been documented to show responses to other parameters including dredging, shoreline alteration, fishing practices, salinity, and dissolved oxygen (Barnard, 1958, 1961; Widdowson, 1971; McCluskey, 1967, 1970; Vobis, 1973). In freshwater streams of Germany, the onset and recovery of "stream souring" (acidification) has been documented since 1945 on the basis of distribution patterns of three species of the amphipod genus Gammarus (Meijering,1991). This biological model has proved to be a more responsive and sensitive measure of environmental conditions than standard water quality protocols (Meijering, 1991). Such studies provide a compelling argument for the value of long-term biological monitoring programs.

Infaunal amphipods:

Benthic monitoring programs are more widely applied in soft-bottom environments because of the relatively uniform nature of sediments and the ease of obtaining quantifiable samples. Certain groups of amphipods may act as important structuring agents in some these soft-bottom benthic communities. Phoxocephalid amphipods from sandy bottom communities in California, New Zealand, and Antarctica consumed large numbers of soft-bodied invertebrate larvae (Oliver et al. 1982). A similar predation pattern was noted for the Platyischnopidae in Caribbean waters (Thomas and Barnard, 1982). Because these two families usually occur in large numbers on sandy bottoms, it is probable that they are disproportionately important in structuring communities by consuming settling larvae and juveniles of soft-bottom invertebrates. In southern hemisphere waters, Jim Lowry of the Australian Museum reports that lysianassoid amphipods are the dominant benthic scavengers (personal communication). Any pollution scenario that adversely affects population levels of these predatory and scavenging amphipods would ultimately alter long-term benthic community structure and possibly impact other groups such as fish that use them as a food source.

In some instances infaunal amphipods have become standard bioassay organisms in coastal U.S. waters. The phoxocephalid, Rhepoxynius abronius Barnard (1960), is used in California to determine sediment toxicity levels (Swartz et al. 1985). Sediment toxicity tests proposed by EPA along kthe east coast will use the amphipod, Ampelisca abdita (EPA, 1990b), a species both acutely and chronically sensitive to contaminated sediments (Bretler et al. 1989; Scott and Redmond 1989; DiToro et al. in press).

Bioassay :

Bioassay programs target particular species as direct measures to determine contaminant-specific effects and toxicity levels, independent of chemical characterizations and ecological surveys (Chapman, 1988). In the marine environment, sediment toxicity testing has become an integral part of benthic assessment programs (Swartz, 1987).

To be effective, a well-conceived bioassay program must include a thorough validation of the taxonomy and pertinent biotic and abiotic factors that influence the bioassay organism. One approach to selecting bioassay organisms would be to conduct comprehensive benthic inventories to identify potential candidates for bioassay using pre-selected criteria. When this stage is completed, a bioassay profile could be developed for each species' response to acute and chronic pollutant levels. Response profiles to physiological and ecological factors could also be included.

Hard-bottom communities::

Establishing monitoring programs in hard-bottom communities (rocky shorelines, coastal outcrops, kelp forests, coral reefs) has been difficult because of problems in establishing adequate and comparative sampling protocols in these hard-bottom areas. An emerging policy concern is the collection of material without the use of overly destructive sampling techniques. In response to this concern, statistically valid monitoring programs using artificial substrates have been developed along temperate rocky coastlines in response to major oil spills on the European coast from tanker accidents such as the Torrey Canyon and the Amoco Cadiz, and more recently, the Exxon Valdez in Alaskan waters. A variety of artificial substrates have been used in intertidal and sublittoral zones (Fager, 1971; Schoener,1974; Ghelardi,1960; Kensler & Crisp, 1965; Frank, 1965; Myers & Southgate, 1980). Myers and Southgate (op. cit.) demonstrated that communities from immersed artificial substrates (nylon pan scourers) were similar to those that developed naturally on red algal turfs in Bantry Bay, Ireland.

Based on the use of artificial substrates in temperate waters, there would appear to be justification for their use in tropical marine systems, especially coral reefs. Since amphipods are a dominant macrobenthic component of reef systems, they appear to be acceptable candidates for monitoring programs using artificial substrates.

Coral reefs offer several distinct advantages as sites for biological monitoring programs. They are discrete systems that occur within a narrow range of biological and physical parameters and exhibit comparable habitats over a wide geographical range. While artificial substrates can overcome some of the difficulties in sampling the spatially complex habitats of coral reefs, comprehensive taxonomic surveys and inventories on which monitoring programs are ultimately based are almost completely lacking. Other constraints include the lack of active field systematists and adequate lab facilities in tropical countries. Without substantial long-term commitments of facilities and personnel in tropical regions, these problems will continue to restrict progress in implementing biological monitoring and biodiversity programs in coral reef areas.

Amphipods as bioindicators:

Ecological factors must also be considered in evaluating the potential information value of various amphipod groups. Epifaunal nestlers and foulers (Aoridae, Ampithoidae, some Corophiidae, Ischyroceridae, Melitidae, Neomegamphopidae), exhibit different habitat requirements and dispersion capabilities than do infaunal burrowers (Haustoriidae, Platyischnopidae, Phoxocephalidae, Oedicerotidae, Melphidippidae), tube-builders (some Corophiidae, Ampeliscidae), and other cryptic and commensal groups (Anamixidae, Iphimidiidae, Leucothoidae, Sebidae, Colomastigidae). Epifaunal species, especially algal-dwellers, are capable of wide-scale secondary dispersion on flotsam and macroalgae. In contrast, cryptofaunal species exhibit highly restricted distributions and would seem to provide more explicit information about in-situ environmental change than epifaunal forms whose dispersive abilities could rapidly erase local spatial impacts by recolonization from adjacent or unaffected areas. Attributes such as these must be taken into account when considering biological subjects for monitoring and biodiversity programs. For example, in measuring the effects of an oil spill in a coral reef system, cryptofaunal and infaunal species of invertebrates may yield different patterns. Epifaunal forms could "raft" in, while infaunal and cryptofaunal forms would have to recruit along the bottom from unaffected or minimally-impacted areas. Thus, the observed recolonization rates of the two groups, and subsequent interpretation of effects, could be quite different. In an actual oil spill on a Panama coral reef, two infaunal peracarid crustaceans, (amphipods and tanaids) showed virtually no recovery after a nine-month period (Jackson et al,1989), while other groups, including other crustaceans (brachyurans and burrowing shrimp), showed significant recovery at the same sites.

On the basis of the available data, amphipods appear to be highly informative regarding environmental condition in a variety of habitats. In the future, use of amphipods in marine environmental studies will continue to expand as new applications and research programs are undertaken (Reish and Barnard, 1979; Hay et al. 1987).

Biodiversity :

The term "biodiversity" has become a buzzword for the 90's, and it seems that every report or committee provides yet another definition. This paper follows the National Science Board's (1989) usage of biodiversity as "the variety and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur".

Estimates of living species on Earth range from 10-50 million (May, 1988). Ninety percent of species are concentrated on land primarily due to the speciose nature of the Insecta. Thus, the majority of what we know regarding biodiversity shows a strong terrestrial bias. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF,1989) Report, "Loss of Biological Diversity: A Global Crisis Requiring International Solutions" (NSF, op.cit.), our knowledge of tropical biodiversity has huge gaps, and the bulk of what is known concerning tropical biodiversity comes from studies in terrestrial moist forest systems. The NSF report further states that "inventories and ecological studies are needed in all oceans, with special emphasis on those habitats most immediately threatened. So little is known about the marine biota that rates of extinction are difficult to estimate..." (NSF, page 8).

If we look at biodiversity by ecosystem, tropical rain forests and coral reefs constitute the greatest centers of biodiversity with 55% and 15% of the total number species respectively. It is, therefore, ironic that while coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse systems known, they are also one of the most poorly understood and least studied in terms of biodiversity. If, however, we compare diversity on the basis of numbers of animal phyla, marine environments are more biologically diverse. Marine habitats encompass 28 phyla (13 endemic), while terrestrial systems include 11 phyla (1 endemic) (Ray and Grassle, 1991).

Conservation strategies in marine systems:

Current conservation strategies lack a unified scientific method that addresses the nature and quality of biodiversity (Erwin, 1991). Instead, efforts are based on other considerations such as protection of areas that support species of special human interest, areas with novel biological features (endemics), areas of spectacular natural beauty, and centers of endemism. This approach places the highest priority on unique and unusual areas with little regard to the nature and quality of biodiversity on a larger scale. While this process brings attention and protection to the unusual and spectacular, it does not bring attention to the more mundane areas that may serve as sources of biodiversity. Recent insights into conservation strategies based on phylogenetic analysis (cladistics) and historical biogeography lead to advocating an evolutionary basis for conservation strategies (Erwin, op.cit.). More specifically, this means defining evolutionary centers that have served not only as sources of current biodiversity, but are likely to contribute to future biodiversity. The current practice of emphasizing relict or unique areas does not address long-term evolutionary implications. While the unique and aesthetic species and areas are certainly worthy of protection, this approach alone does not focus on the larger issue of sustaining biodiversity levels over long temporal scales.

Assessing biodiversity:

Most programs now in use to assess biodiversity incorporate the larger, more spatially obvious and socially relevant components of a system. Such an approach provides a static measure of biodiversity, but is capable of documenting change only after it has occurred. An example from coral reefs is the currently popular video or photo transect of coral cover over time. While public awareness is heightened, and visible changes in coral-algal dominance on the reef are documented, the possible or probable cause(s) remain the subject of speculation, supported by anecdotal evidence at best. While these types of assessment approaches are important in increasing awareness and focusing public attention, they rarely provide accurate insight to the causative agent(s). The author believes if we are to make informed decisions about the protection and management of marine resources we must develop programs that can identify the early manifestations of large-scale community change. Except in the most extreme cases of pollution or physical impact, current programs are insufficient to identify and interpret the early stages of change in marine systems. Also lacking is the ability to define limits of natural versus anthropogenic variability in coastal systems. Until natural variability patterns are documented, it will not be possible to identify those situations arising from either abnormal natural phenomena or anthropogenic effects.

Because of specific ecological attributes, certain groups of organisms are capable of providing information as both measures and monitors of biodiversity in tropical systems. In rainforest areas of South and Central America, bird populations are now being used to assess and compare biodiversity levels using the Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) approach (Roberts, 1991a). The RAP program uses "quick and dirty" inventories of birds and other select groups of the smaller and less obvious organisms that provide a representative picture of the system in a short period of time. It is based on the premise that the less obvious, ecologically important constituents of a system may provide a more accurate estimate of diversity than is available by merely recording the distribution of the primary floral or faunal representatives, (tree species in rainforests, coral species in coral reefs, etc.). In many cases, the subtle precursors of change in ecosystems are first heralded by these less obvious components. However, while RAP programs can be valuable tools, their accuracy depends on the taxonomic expertise of those conducting the assessment.

The use of ecologically important and numerically dominant invertebrate groups in RAP, or similar biodiversity assessment programs in tropical marine ecosystmes is constrained by three factors:

1. The high percentage of new taxa encountered in tropical marine systems that require formal description before they can be used in applied programs.

2. The lack of non-technical identification manuals and formalized assessment protocols for marine invertebrate groups.

3. The shortage of trained field systematists, support staff, and facilities in tropical countries that can interact effectively with organizations and programs engaged in documenting and conserving biodiversity in marine ecosystems.

Program needs for coral reefs:

A recent NSF-sponsored meeting on global warming and coral bleaching concluded that to determine what is happening to the world's reefs would require the development of long-term biological and ecological monitoring programs that are related to physical processes over time, and could be compared among sites over time (Roberts, 1991b). The myriad groups of small benthic invertebrates that are in a sense "environmental integrators" of physical, chemical, and biological conditions, are optimal candidates for monitoring studies. Understanding the dynamics of selected groups of organisms will be more cost effective and will allow scientists to document and interpret spatial and temporal patterns in tropical marine ecosystems on a much finer scale than is now possible. There is a growing consensus among environmental researchers that biologically based monitoring programs can enhance our ability to interpret cause and effect relationships in the marine environment.

In the absence of long-term ecological research, serious misjudgements can occur in attempts to manage the environment (Magnuson, 1990). Worldwide, a number of coral reef areas have been established as protected areas, sanctuaries, preserves, and parks. However, resource inventories and taxonomic surveys, an essential first step in effective monitoring programs, has not been a priority, except in the case of corals and reef fishes. This lack of basic knowledge of system components precludes the development of sound resoruce management decisions based on information from effective monitoring and assessment programs. This deficiency is especially acute in coral reef ecosystems because of the relatively high levels biodiversity and new taxa.

Despite recent reports of changes occurring in reef systems worldwide (Roberts, 1988; Williams and Williams, 1990) only anecdotal data and explanations are available. Lack of reliable taxonomy at the species level in the Caribbean reef-building coral Montastrea annularis Ellis and Solander (1786), has jeopardized interpretation and comparison of past and current studies in paleoceanography, environmental degradation, and global climate change (Knowlton et. al., 1992).

Those in charge of coral reef management must acknowledge that the intricate ecological workings of a coral reef includes more than corals and fish. The management and research community must work in concert to develop criteria and implement programs that are accurate, sensitive, and capable of assessing resource conditions over wide spatial and temporal scales. Mere designation and administration of protected marine areas will not prevent loss of biodiversity and environmental quality.


The following recommendations are put forth as considerations in establishing biologically-based marine environmental monitoring programs. While there is a need for efforts in all areas, the demand is especially acute in the tropics.

1. A network of parataxonomists must be established to act as local authorities on the taxonomy and identification of the various groups of organisms used in monitoring programs. This group would also be responsible for maintaining a scientifically valid taxonomic database. A model for this approach can be found in California in the Southern California Association of Marine Invertebrate Taxonomists (SCAMIT).

2. Estuarine and marine systems will require somewhat different approaches in experimental design, but criteria for selecting and implementing biologically based monitoring programs should be identical in all coastal areas.

3. Coastal states should be compelled to initiate and complete basic resource inventories, especially of the ecologically and trophically important non-economic species. Few states have completed detailed taxonomic inventories except for economically important species. This step is crucial in providing a solid scientific base for effective monitoring programs.

4. Once faunal/floral inventories are complete, tentative candidates for use as bioindicators can be identified. Responses to an established array of pollutants, toxicants, and other factors such as salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature should be documented. This phase would identify probable "keystone" species that would be incorporated into the monitoring program. Periodic updates (five years) are advised to check for major shifts in community composition.

5. For those groups designated as key components and possible bioindicators, a complete taxonomic study and database should be maintained by taxonomically competent personnel. A series of simple, non-technical identification guides to the species involved should be prepared and updated as needed. Currently, outside consultants are often hired for this purpose; a time-consuming and expensive process. Recent advances in computer imaging should make production and distribution of regional keys and identification manuals a reality.

6. A centralized reference collection of all species should be maintained and curated for reference and research purposes.

7. Because the ultimate source of data for analysis is species-level identifications, agencies should be required to provide competent taxonomic personnel for the duration of biological monitoring programs.

8. In an effort to insure credibility in program management, agencies should establish technical qualifications criteria for staff positions involved with experimental design, sampling, sorting and taxonomic identification of both known and undescribed taxa.

9. Develop an information-sensitive decision-making process that directly incorporates information from biological monitoring programs.

10. Develop reciprocity and interlocal agreements with various county, state, and federal agencies to share data and information as needed.


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