, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 121-133

Biotic index for sediment quality assessment of watercourses in Flanders, Belgium

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Abstract

Today, assessment of freshwater sediments in Flanders is based on the TRIAD approach in which physical-chemical, biological and ecotoxicological data are combined. No prior experience existing in Flanders with the biological assessment of the sediment quality, several biotic indices were compared on a first set of 80 samples taken in different types of lowland watercourses. This information resulted in a first selection of suitable indices consisting of a newly created Biotic Sediment Index (BSI) and the Percentage Mentum Deformities in Chironomus (Diptera, Chironomidae larvae). The starting point of the BSI was the Belgian Biotic Index (BBI) based on a combination of the taxa diversity and the presence or absence of specific indicator groups. For the refinement of the BSI, a new set of data related to the benthic macroinvertebrate communities sampled by means of a grab in more than 400 sites was collected. Community analysis by means of multivariate techniques, combining biological information with physical-chemical and ecotoxicological data was the basis for this further refinement and the scientific foundation of the original BSI. Major amendments relate to the scores assigned to the indicator groups. This refined BSI is representative for the degree of pollution, unbiased by the type of sediment and the origin of the river basin. Like the BBI, the BSI scores can vary between 10 (excellent sediment quality) and 0 (very bad sediment quality). The index values can be converted into 4 quality classes to be represented by means of a colour code.