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

A diatom species index for bioassessment of Australian rivers

Bruce C. Chessman A B E , Nina Bate C , Peter A. Gell B D and Peter Newall C

A Department of Natural Resources, PO Box 3720, Parramatta, NSW 2124, Australia.

B e-Water Cooperative Research Centre, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

C Environment Protection Authority, 40 City Road, Southbank, Vic. 3006, Australia.

D Geographical and Environmental Studies, University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: Bruce.Chessman@dnr.nsw.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 58(6) 542-557 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF06220
Submitted: 21 November 2006  Accepted: 5 April 2007   Published: 25 June 2007

Abstract

The Diatom Index for Australian Rivers (DIAR), originally developed at the genus level, was reformulated at the species level with data from diatom sampling of rivers in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. The resulting Diatom Species Index for Australian Rivers (DSIAR) was significantly correlated with the ARCE (Assessment of River Condition, Environment) index developed in the Australian National Land and Water Resources Audit (NLWRA), and with nine of the ARCE’s constituent indices and sub-indices, across 395 river reaches in south-eastern Australia. These correlations were generally stronger than those shown by the biological index that was used to assess river condition in the NLWRA, the ARCB (Assessment of River Condition, Biota) index based on macroinvertebrates and the Australian River Assessment System (AUSRIVAS). At a finer spatial scale, DSIAR was strongly and significantly correlated with measures of catchment urbanisation for streams in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria. DSIAR scores across south-eastern Australia bore little relationship to the latitude, longitude or altitude of sampling sites, suggesting that DSIAR is not greatly affected by macro-geographical position. In addition, DSIAR scores did not vary greatly among small-scale hydraulic environments within a site. DSIAR appears to have potential as a broad-scale indicator of human influences on Australian rivers, especially the effects of agricultural and urban land use, and also for impact studies at a local scale. Further evaluation is warranted to test the sensitivity of the index to natural variables such as catchment geology, and to assess its performance in northern, western and inland Australia.

Additional keywords: biological monitoring, biotic index, water quality.


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