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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Assessing acidity impacts in Nordic lakes and streams: Development of a macroinvertebrate-based multimetric index to quantify degradation and recovery

Carlson, Peter E.; Johnson, Richard K.; Aroviita, Jukka; Velle, Gaute; Fo, Jens


1) Emissions of acidifying compounds have decreased over several decades, nevertheless acidification impacts on aquatic ecosystems remains as a regionally important environmental driver resulting in biodiversity loss and impaired function in many lakes and streams. 2) Many metrics based on macroinvertebrates are currently used to assess the biological impacts of acidification. However, few include measures of community composition, abundance, diversity, and the presence/absence of tolerant/sensitive taxa, and fewer still are calibrated simultaneously for both lentic and lotic waters and across large geographic regions. 3) Data on water chemistry and benthic macroinvertebrates was extracted from a database compiled by representatives from Norway, Sweden and Finland. Using lake-and stream data on water chemistry and macroinvertebrates from Norway and Sweden, we developed a Nordic macroinvertebrate-based multimetric index (MMI) for acidity (NAMI) to assess impacts of and recovery from acidity using information on measures of community structure and traits. 4) Lake and stream datasets were explored together and independently for correlation between measures of community structure and traits to acid neutralizing capacity (ANC), modified ANC regarding 1/3 of the organic acids as strong (ANCo1) and pH. Significantly correlated candidate metrics with highest correlations were chosen using forward stepwise linear regression models against ANC, ANCo1 and pH. Results showed that the combined lake and stream MMI had the highest correlation (r-squared) with ANCo1. 5) Seven metrics were included in NAMI: one measure of composition (sum of the combined relative abundance of Gastropoda, Bivalvia and Crustacea), two measures of diversity (the number of Ephemeroptera taxa excluding leptophlebiids and the number of Bivalvia taxa), one effect trait (taxa with life cycle duration > 1 year), two response traits (taxa with resistance forms: eggs and plastron respiration) and one tolerance trait (preference > 5 pH < 5.5). 6) The NAMI is a promising metric to standardize lake and stream macroinvertebrate assessments of acidity impacts and recovery across the Nordic countries, and to harmonize chemical and biological classifications of water quality, including progress towards achieving international objectives.


Acidification; Recovery; Benthic macroinvertebrates; Multimetric index; Monitoring

Published in

Ecological Indicators
2023, Volume: 155, article number: 111028
Publisher: ELSEVIER