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An integrative method for the evaluation, monitoring, and comparison of seagrass habitat structure
journal contributionposted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Andrew IrvingAndrew Irving, J Tanner, S Gaylard
Assessing environmental condition is essential for the management of coasts and their resources, but better management decisions occur when large databases are simplified into more manageable units of information. Here we present the habitat structure index (HSI), which enables rapid assessment and direct comparison of seagrass habitat structure using scores of 0 (poor) to 100 (excellent) based on integrating five habitat variables: area, continuity, proximity, percentage cover, and species identity. Acquiring data to calculate the HSI can be done in situ or from video recordings, and requires relatively simple methodology of belt transects, estimating percentage cover, and basic taxonomy. Spatiotemporal comparisons can usefully identify locations and periods of seagrass habitat change, potentially providing an early warning indicator of habitat damage and decline in environmental quality. Overall, the integrative approach of the HSI represents a step toward simplifying the exchange of environmental information among researchers, coastal managers, and governing bodies.