One of the habitat-based methodologies for impact assessment currently in use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the Habitat Evaluation Procedures (HEP) (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1980). HEP is based on the assumption that the quality of an area as wildlife habitat at a specified target year can be described by a single number, called a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI). An HSI of 1.0 represents optimum habitat: an HSI of 0.0 represents unsuitable habitat. The verbal or mathematical rules by which an HSI is assigned to an area are called an HSI model. A series of Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) models, described by Schamberger et al. (1982), have been published to assist users in applying HEP.
HSI model building approaches are described in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1981). One type of HSI model described in detail requires the development of Suitability Index (SI) graphs for habitat variables believed to be important for the growth, survival, standing crop, or other measure of well-being for a species. Suitability indices range from 0 to 1.0, with 1.0 representing optimum conditions for the variable. When HSI models based on suitability indices are used, habitat variable values are measured, or estimated, and converted to SI's through the use of a Suitability Index graph for each variable. Individual SI's are aggregated into an HSI. Standard methods for testing this type of HSI model did not exist at the time the studies reported in this document were performed.
A workshop was held in Fort Collins, Colorado, February 14-15, 1983, that brought together biologists experienced in the use, development, and testing of aquatic HSI models, in an effort to address the following objectives: (1) review the needs of HSI model users; (2) discuss and document the results of aquatic HSI model tests; and (3) provide recommendations for the future development, testing, modification, and use of HSI models. Individual presentations, group discussions, and group decision techniques were used to develop and present information at the meeting. A synthesis of the resulting concepts, results, and recommendations follows this preface. Subsequent papers describe individual tests of selected HSI models. Most of the tests involved comparison of values from HSI models or Suitability index (SI) curves with standing crop, as required contractually. Time and budget constraints generally limited tests to the use of data previously collected for other purposes.
These proceedings are intended to help persons responsible for the development, testing, or use of HSI models by increasing their understanding of potential uses and limitations of testing procedures and models based on aggregated Suitability Indices. Problems encountered when testing HSI models are described, model performance during tests is documents, and recommendations for future model development and testing presented by the participants are listed and interpreted.
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