Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The imperative need for nationally coordinated bioassessment of rivers and streams

Susan J. Nichols A L , Leon A. Barmuta B , Bruce C. Chessman C , Peter E. Davies D , Fiona J. Dyer A , Evan T. Harrison C , Charles P. Hawkins E , Iwan Jones F , Ben J. Kefford C , Simon Linke G , Richard Marchant H , Leon Metzeling I , Katie Moon C , Ralph Ogden J , Michael Peat A , Trefor B. Reynoldson K and Ross M. Thompson C

A Institute for Applied Ecology and MDBfutures Collaborative Research Network, University of Canberra, University Drive, Bruce, ACT 2617, Australia.

B Freshwater Ecology Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 55, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

C Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, University Drive, Bruce, ACT 2617, Australia.

D Centre for Environment and School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay Campus, Old Medical Sciences Building, Tas. 7005, Australia.

E Department of Watershed Sciences, Western Center for Monitoring and Assessment of Freshwater Ecosystems, and the Ecology Center, Utah State University, 5210 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-5210, USA.

F School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK.

G Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Nathan Campus, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan, Qld 4111, Australia.

H Museum Victoria, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia.

I Environment Protection Authority, Ernest Jones Drive, Macleod, Vic. 3085, Australia.

J eWater, University Drive, Bruce, ACT 2617, Australia.

K Acadia University, 15 University Avenue, Wolfville, NS, B4P 2R6, Canada.

L Corresponding author. Email: sue.nichols@canberra.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF15329
Submitted: 26 April 2015  Accepted: 28 February 2016   Published online: 17 June 2016

Abstract

Declining water quality and ecological condition is a typical trend for rivers and streams worldwide as human demands for water resources increase. Managing these natural resources sustainably is a key responsibility of governments. Effective water management policies require information derived from long-term monitoring and evaluation. Biological monitoring and assessment are critical for management because bioassessment integrates the biological, physical and chemical features of a waterbody. Investment in nationally coordinated riverine bioassessment in Australia has almost ceased and the foci of management questions are on more localised assessments. However, rivers often span political and administrative boundaries, and their condition may be best protected and managed under national policies, supported by a coordinated national bioassessment framework. We argue that a nationally coordinated program for the bioassessment of riverine health is an essential element of sustainable management of a nation’s water resources. We outline new techniques and research needed to streamline current arrangements to meet present-day and emerging challenges for coordinating and integrating local, regional and national bioassessment activities. This paper draws on international experience in riverine bioassessment to identify attributes of successful broad-scale bioassessment programs and strategies needed to modernise freshwater bioassessment in Australia and re-establish national broad-scale focus.

Additional keywords: biological assessment, broad-scale, freshwater monitoring, water quality.


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