"Local habitat disturbance best predicts biological indices of mosses and vascular plants in Ohio (USA) Wetlands",


Loss of wetland habitats and their associated biological communities
is a major environmental concern. Quality assessment indices
(QAIs) and indices of biological integrity (IBIs) are useful for
assessing the responses of taxa to wetland habitat quality and land
use in the surrounding landscape. Mosses and vascular plants have
been shown to be reliable indicators of wetland habitat delineation
and environmental quality. Knowledge of the best ecological
predictors of the quality of wetland moss and vascular plant communities
may determine if similar management practices would
simultaneously enhance both populations. We used Akaike’s Information
Criterion to identify models predicting a moss quality
assessment index (MQAI) and a vascular plant index of biological
integrity based on floristic quality (VIBI-FQ) from 27 emergent
and 13 forested wetlands in Ohio, USA. The set of predictors included
the six metrics from a wetlands disturbance index (ORAM)
and two landscape development intensity indices (LDIs). The best
single predictor of MQAI and one of the predictors of VIBI-FQ
was an ORAM metric that assesses habitat alteration and disturbance
within the wetland, such as mowing, grazing, and agricultural
practices. However, the best single predictor of VIBI-FQ was
an ORAM metric that assessed wetland vascular plant communities,
interspersion, and microtopography. LDIs better predicted
MQAI than VIBI-FQ, suggesting that mosses may either respond
more rapidly to, or recover more slowly from, anthropogenic disturbance
in the surrounding landscape than vascular plants. These
results supported previous predictive studies on amphibian indices
and metrics and a separate vegetation index, indicating that similar
wetland management practices may enhance three vastly different
wetland biological communities (amphibians, vascular plants, and
mosses). This may lead to more efficient use of available resources
by wetland management agencies.

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