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Abstract

Following the recent trend to manage natural resources for "sustainability," ecologists, resource managers and policymakers are beginning to think of the management of forest ecosystems in terms of "ecosystem health" or "ecosystem integrity." Biologists are increasingly recognizing that use of chemical assays in assessing the condition of an ecosystem has limited value, and that biological factors, e.g., species diversity and composition, can be useful characters in the analysis of "biotic integrity." An index of biotic integrity (IBI) has been developed for riverine ecosystems in the Midwest U.S., using fish species diversity, indicator population analysis, trophic structure assessment, and physiological abnormalities in fish as measurable surrogates for "biotic integrity". This paper explores the development of an analogous index of forest integrity (IFI) to be applied to the upland coastal plain forests of southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. The IFI developed here includes sampling and analysis of population trends of dominant plant taxa, plant species diversity, and horizontal and vertical vegetative structure at midstory, shrub and detritus levels.

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