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Environ Manage. 2011 Feb;47(2):279-90. doi: 10.1007/s00267-010-9598-8. Epub 2010 Dec 19.

Assessing ecological water quality with macroinvertebrates and fish: a case study from a small Mediterranean river.

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Laboratory of Zoology, School of Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, P.O. Box 134, 541 24, Thessaloniki, Greece.


Biological elements, such as benthic macroinvertebrates and fish, have been used in assessing the ecological quality of rivers according to the requirements of the Water Framework Directive. However, the concurrent use of multiple organism groups provides a broader perspective for such evaluations, since each biological element may respond differently to certain environmental variables. In the present study, we assessed the ecological quality of a Greek river (RM4 type), during autumn 2003 and spring 2004 at 10 sites, with benthic macroinvertebrates and fish. Hydromorphological and physicochemical parameters, habitat structure, and riparian vegetation were also considered. Pollution sensitive macroinvertebrate taxa were more abundant at headwaters, which had good/excellent water quality according to the Hellenic Evaluation System (HES). The main river reaches possessed moderate water quality, while downstream sites were mainly characterised as having bad or poor water quality, dominated by pollution-tolerant macroinvertebrate taxa. Macroinvertebrates related strongly to local stressors as chemical degradation (ordination analysis CCA) and riparian quality impairment (bivariate analysis) while fish did not. Fish were absent from the severely impacted lower river reaches. Furthermore, external pathological signs were observed in fish caught at certain sites. A combined use of both macroinvertebrates and fish in biomonitoring programs is proposed for providing a safer assessment of local and regional habitat impairment.

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