RIVPACS models produce a community-level measure of biological condition known as O/E, which is derived from a comparison of the observed (O) biota with those expected (E) to occur in the absence of anthropogenic stress. We used benthic macroinvertebrate and environmental data collected at 925 stream monitoring stations, from 1993 to 2001, to develop, validate, and apply a RIVPACS model to assess the biological condition of wadeable streams in Wyoming. From this dataset, 296 samples were identified as reference, 157 of which were used to calibrate the model, 46 to validate it, and 93 to examine temporal variability in reference site O/E-values. We used cluster analyses to group the model development reference sites into biologically similar classes of streams and multiple discriminant function analysis to determine which environmental variables best discriminated among reference groups. A suite of 14 categorical and continuous environmental variables best discriminated among 15 reference groups and explained a large proportion of the natural variability in biota within the reference dataset. Eleven of the predictor variables were derived from GIS. As expected, mean O/E-values for reference sites used in model development and validation were near unity and statistically similar. Temporal variability in O/E-values for reference sites was low. Test site values ranged from 0 to 1.45 (mean = 0.73). The model was accurate in both space and time and precise enough (S.D. of O/E-values for calibration data = 0.17) to detect modest alteration in biota associated with anthropogenic stressors. Our model was comparable in performance to other RIVPACS models developed in the United States and can produce effective assessments of biological condition over a broad, ecologically diverse region. We also provide convincing evidence that RIVPACS models can be developed primarily with GIS-based predictor variables. This framework not only simplifies the extraction of predictor variable information while potentially reducing expenditures of time and money in the collection of predictor variable information, but opens the door for development and/or application of RIVPACS models in regions where there is a paucity of local-scale, abiotic information.
Hargett, E.G., J.R. Zumberge, C.P. Hawkins, and J.R. Olson. 2007. Development of RIVPACS-type predicttive model for bioassessment of wadeable streams in Wyoming. Ecological Indicators 7: 807-826