Thursday, November 17, 2022

Biological Integrity

In this webinar, presented live on November 15, 2022, we learned more about the Index for Biological Integrity and assessing water quality through the creatures that live in them.


  • 9:00am – Welcome
  • 9:15-9:25 – Overview from Jill Crafton, Izaak Walton League
    • Jill provided an overview of the Izaak Walton League, a local/state/national organization that focuses on defending soil, air, woods, waters, and wildlife. Jill also shared how biological health is important in understanding our natural resource management and went over the GreenStep Cities Best Practice Actions related to the topic of biological integrity and habitat protection. 
  • 9:25-9:40 – John Sandberg, North Biological Monitoring, MPCA
    • John explained why and how we monitor and assess biology in lakes and streams. Restoring and maintaining the biological integrity of rivers, lakes, and wetlands is a primary objective of the Clean Water Act, and an important water quality goal in Minnesota. Water quality can be measured by surrogate measures such as TSS, dissolved oxygen, chlorides, and pH or by measuring aquatic life (fish, macroinvertebrate, and plant community) directly. 
    • The Index of Biological Integrity (IBI) is a tool developed to evaluate the effects of human actions on the health of living systems. IBIs use multiple metrics that when combined depict the overall biological integrity, or health, of a system. Metrics selected in each IBI respond in a predictable manner to human-induced stressors. 
  • 9:40-10:00 – Jacquelyn Bacigalupi, Lake IBI Program Supervisor, DNR
    • Jacquelyn gave an example of a fish-based IBI framework to assess Minnesota lakes. Fish IBIs look at habitat stressors in physical habitats (vegetation, woody habitat, substrate) and water quality (sedimentation, algae, deepwater oxygen, regime shifts). While fish communities in Minnesota's lakes are generally healthy, impaired lakes are most often in agricultural and urban areas and nutrient impaired. Meanwhile, exceptional lakes are nearly all in forested areas, not nutrient impaired, have diverse plant communities, and have high quality shoreline habitat. 
    • Fish IBI data has been used to assess the health of 711 lakes in Minnesota. The DNR assesses new watershed districts annually. 
    • IBI and habitat survey data can be used for protection and restoration strategies, WRAPS, One Watershed One Plan, and other plans. 
  • 10:00-10:15 – Q&A
  • 10:15-10:30 – Jack Distel, Water Resources Specialist, City of Bloomington
    • Jack explained how the city samples for water quality by grabbing samples of floating plants, submerged aquatic vegetation, and sheltering areas on 30 bodies of water a year, between April and August. 
    • Using scenario forecasting and creating an ecological framework is a good way to include IBI in goals and plans. 
  • 10:40-10:55 – Q&A and open discussion
  • 11:00 – Conclusion

View the workshop recording: 

View the PDF and additional materials:


Best Practice Actions related to this topic: 
  • 7.5 Use design to create social trust and interaction among neighbors and allow developments that meet the prerequisites for LEED for Neighborhood Development certification.

  • 10.1 Conduct a Natural Resource Inventory or Assessment (NRI or NRA); incorporate protection of priority natural systems or resources such as groundwater through the subdivision or development process.

  • 10.2 For cities outside or on the fringe of metropolitan areas, conduct a build-out analysis, fiscal impact study, or adopt an urban growth boundary and a consistent capital improvement plan that provides long-term protection of natural resources and natural systems, and agricultural practices outside the boundary.

  • 10.4 Adopt a conservation design policy; use a conservation design tool for pre-design meetings with developers and for negotiating development agreements in cities with undeveloped natural resource areas.

  • 10.5 Preserve environmentally sensitive, community-valued land by placing a conservation easement on city lands, and by encouraging/funding private landowners to place land in conservation easements.

  • 10.6 Conserve natural, cultural, historic resources by adopting or amending city codes and ordinances to support sustainable sites, including roadsides, and environmentally protective land use development.

  • 10.7 Support and protect wildlife through habitat rehabilitation, preservation and recognition programs.

  • 18.8 Develop a program to involve community members in hands-on land restoration, invasive species management and stewardship projects.

  • 19.1 Consistently monitor surface water quality/clarity and report findings to community members.

  • 19.2 Conduct or support multi-party community conversations, assessments, plans and actions around improving local water quality and quantity.

  • 19.3 Adopt and publicly report on measurable surface water improvement targets for lake, river, wetland and ditches.

Register for upcoming GreenStep Cities and Tribal Nations workshops here. You do not need to be a GreenStep community to attend.

 Visit the GreenStep Cities and Tribal Nations program website at

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