, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 186-192

Caddisflies (Trichoptera: Hydropsychidae) Used for Evaluating Water Quality of Large European Rivers

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In many European rivers, biodiversity has declined dramatically, and especially riverine insects have disappeared during the past decades. It remains unclear whether poor water quality or deteriorated habitats are limiting the distribution of sensitive aquatic insects in these rivers. The aim of this study, therefore, was to find out if water quality alone is limiting the distribution of these insects in rivers that have suffered from anthropogenic disturbances. To this purpose, caddisflies of the genus Hydropsyche, which are representative riverine insect species, were incubated in two large European rivers, the Rhine and the Meuse. Survival of caddisflies in the River Rhine was fairly high, while there was almost no survival in the River Meuse in three out of five field experiments. The incubations of Hydropsyche in the River Meuse provide evidence that even adequate structural habitat would be insufficient for the reestablishment of Hydropsyche species. The factors limiting the distribution of Hydropsyche species change with the changing constitution of the water; there is not one (group of) compound(s) responsible for the poor water quality. Besides chemical factors, physical factors (like oxygen and current velocity) may be limiting in the River Meuse for Hydropsyche species.

Received: 16 March 1998/Accepted: 15 September 1998