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Research article2004Peer reviewed

Comparing macroinvertebrate indices to detect organic pollution across Europe: a contribution to the EC Water Framework Directive intercalibration

Sandin L, Hering D


With the EC Water Framework Directive (WFD) the ecological status of a water body is defined by comparing the observed biological community composition present with near-natural reference conditions. The ecological status is then classified into five quality classes (high, good, moderate, poor and bad). It is of great importance that 'good ecological status' has the same meaning within the European Union, since water bodies not measuring up to these standards have to be improved. Therefore, the Ecological Quality Ratios (EQR) at high-good, and good-moderate quality class boundaries will be intercalibrated. Each country has to report physical, chemical, and biological data from two sites at each of these boundaries and since most data exist for benthic macroinvertebrates, this quality element will be of great importance in the intercalibration process. The aim of this study was therefore to compare the results of different benthic macroinvertebrate metrics used to assess the impact of organic pollution (including eutrophication) (one of the major human impacts on European streams). A selection of the data sampled in the AQEM project was evaluated, where benthic macroinvertebrate- and abiotic data from four countries (Austria, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Sweden) and seven 'stream types' were included. An organic pollution (including eutrophication) gradient was defined using Principal Component Analysis and the boundaries for high-good and good-moderate ecological status set by the partners from each country were used to define arbitrary class boundaries. The Average Score Per Taxon (ASPT) was well correlated with the stress gradient in most stream types, whereas the Saprobic Index worked clearly better than ASPT in those countries (Austria and the Czech Republic) where macroinvertebrates are generally identified to lower (species) as opposed to a higher (genus or family) level of identification. Defining harmonised class boundaries is difficult; this process has to consider the natural differences between stream types (e.g. in the reference values of metrics) but has to eliminate different perceptions of ecological quality

Published in

2004, Volume: 516, number: 1, pages: 55-68

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Fish and Aquacultural Science
    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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