Aquatic Sciences

, 81:26 | Cite as

Integrating catchment land cover data to remotely assess freshwater quality: a step forward in heterogeneity analysis of river networks

  • Ionuţ Şandric
  • Alina Satmari
  • Claudia Zaharia
  • Milca Petrovici
  • Mirela Cîmpean
  • Karina-Paula Battes
  • Dragomir-Cosmin David
  • Octavian Pacioglu
  • András Weiperth
  • Blanka Gál
  • Mălina Pîrvu
  • Hanelore Muntean
  • Marian Neagul
  • Adrian Spătaru
  • Claudiu G. Toma
  • Lucian PârvulescuEmail author
Research Article


Attempts to obtain information from geospatial data in freshwater ecology is a highly challenging task requiring the development of new concepts and adequate tools. Conventionally, river networks are represented as collections of vectors, but they can also be thought of as a succession of raster cells corresponding to the digital elevation model of the landscape they traverse. Based on the principle that each cell in the river raster collects environmental influences from its upstream drainage basin, we defined a remote measure of the potential of pollution named RWQ (Remote Water Quality). We used the CORINE Land Cover categories found in the catchment area of each cell in the river network grouped by ecological relevance and weighted by their respective areas in the catchment. To refine the index to account for the proximity of potential pollution sources, we tested successive buffers of 1 km up to the full catchment of each investigated point, concluding that the RWQ calculated for the full catchment is the most suitable index. For implementation, we developed RIVERenhancer, a free Python-based ArcGIS tool making possible the enhancement of raster river networks with data extracted from various files. The reliability of RWQ was tested with the aid of in situ measurements of chemical and biological water quality obtained from several sources in Danube basin (Romania and Hungary). The strong correlation with field data shows that this index can be considered a surrogate to depict the quality of freshwater habitats and to analyse network heterogeneity. The strength of this concept comes from taking advantage of the dendritic nature of river networks, opening new directions of operations for large scale approaches concerning important issues in global ecology, biogeography and conservation.


CORINE Land Cover Danube basin Freshwater ecology Habitat fragmentation Remote sensing Spatial ecology Water quality 



This work was partially supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation (UEFISCDI) project number PN-II-ID-PCE-2008-2-1458. We kindly thank the National Administration of Romanian Waters and Hungarian General Directorate of Water Management for providing water quality datasets used for validation, and all the volunteer students from the West University of Timisoara for their help in the field and laboratory work. We thank the Editors and anonymous reviewers whose valuable suggestions significantly improved the early version of the manuscript.

Authors’ contribution

LP, ASa and CZ conceived the idea. IȘ developed the tool software. ASa and IȘ applied and tested the tool. CZ performed statistical analyses. MPe, MC, KPB, DCD, AW, BG, MPî, HM and OP provided sample collection, and MN, ASp and CGT provided database management. LP led the writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed and approved publication.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Regional and Environmental Geography, Faculty of GeographyUniversity of BucharestBucharestRomania
  2. 2.Department of Geography, Faculty of Chemistry, Biology, GeographyWest University of TimisoaraTimisoaraRomania
  3. 3.Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Mathematics and Computer ScienceWest University of TimisoaraTimisoaraRomania
  4. 4.Department of Biology-Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, Biology, GeographyWest University of TimisoaraTimisoaraRomania
  5. 5.Department of Taxonomy and Ecology, Faculty of Biology and GeologyBabeş-Bolyai UniversityCluj-NapocaRomania
  6. 6.MTA Centre for Ecological ResearchDanube Research InstituteBudapestHungary
  7. 7.Doctoral School of Environmental SciencesEötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary
  8. 8.MTA Centre for Ecological Research, Balaton Limnological InstituteTihanyHungary
  9. 9.Banat River Basin Administration, National Administration of Romanian WatersTimisoaraRomania
  10. 10.Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Mathematics and Computer ScienceWest University of TimisoaraTimisoaraRomania
  11. 11.Arheo Vest AssociationTimisoaraRomania

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