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

Comparing alternatives for combining invertebrate and diatom assessment in stream quality classification

Tânia Mendes A , Ana Raquel Calapez B , Carmen L. Elias A , Salomé F. P. Almeida A and Maria João Feio B C

A Department of Biology and GeoBioSciences, GeoTechnologies and GeoEngineering (GeoBioTec) Research Unit, University of Aveiro, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal.

B IMAR-CMA, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Largo Marquês de Pombal, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal.

C Corresponding author. Email: mjf@ci.uc.pt

Marine and Freshwater Research 65(7) 612-623 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13135
Submitted: 30 May 2013  Accepted: 7 October 2013   Published: 7 May 2014

Abstract

The present study aimed to determine if a predictive model integrating freshwater assemblages from different trophic levels (macroinvertebrates and diatoms) produces a more sensitive assessment of stream health than single-assemblage assessments combined a posteriori. For this purpose, individual and combined models based on two approaches (BEAST and RIVPACS) were developed for Portuguese streams: two for diatoms; two for macroinvertebrates; and two combining diatoms and macroinvertebrates as a single community. Twenty-three sites affected by organic contamination, industrial effluents and mine drainage were evaluated with the predictive models and also by the official biotic indices used in Portugal. The sensitivity of the RIVPACS assessment to disturbance was improved by the a priori combination of diatoms and macroinvertebrates, whereas for BEAST the a posteriori approaches were slightly more sensitive. Diatom and invertebrate indices combined a posteriori performed better than single-assemblage indices but with lower sensitivity than combined models. We conclude that the a priori combination of the two biological assemblages is valuable (more sensitive to disturbance) for the RIVPACS approach and that the a posteriori combination of assessments for individual biological elements may not always provide the most realistic indication of stream health.

Additional keywords: combined assessments, diatoms, ecological quality, macroinvertebrates, predictive models, streams.


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