Biological Response Signatures: Toward the Detection of Cause-and-Effect and Diagnosis in Environmental Disturbance
Yoder and Rankin (1995a) were the first to coin the term, “biological response signatures.” The term is defined as discernable patterns in the response of aquatic community attributes, so that the information is able to discriminate between different stressor types. Unique combinations of biological community characteristics that aid in distinguishing one impact type over another are detected in the biological community data and respond with discrete signatures. In their paper, which described the effects of select environmental disturbances using biological indicators, Yoder and Rankin were able to segregate various impacts into nine categories of disturbance. These response signatures were considered the mechanisms that would assist environmental managers in diagnosing and providing a prognosis on cause and effect. However, as with many tools the practitioners wanted more resolution and the ability to determine chemical-specific impacts.