, Volume 566, Issue 1, pp 91–105 | Cite as

A comparison of the European Water Framework Directive physical typology and RIVPACS-type models as alternative methods of establishing reference conditions for benthic macroinvertebrates

  • John Davy-BowkerEmail author
  • Ralph T. Clarke
  • Richard K. Johnson
  • Jiri Kokes
  • John F. Murphy
  • Svetlana Zahrádková


The EU Water Framework Directive requires European Union Member States to establish ‘type-specific biological reference conditions’ for streams and rivers. Types can be defined by using either a fixed typology (System-A), defined by ecoregions and categories of altitude, catchment area and geology, or by means of an alternative characterisation (System-B) that can use a variety of physical and chemical factors. Several European countries also have existing RIVPACS-type models that give site (rather than stream type) specific predictions of benthic macroinvertebrate communities. In this paper we compare the Water Framework Directive (WFD) System-A physical typology and three existing European multivariate RIVPACS-type models as alternative methods of establishing reference conditions. This work is carried out in Great Britain – using RIVPACS, Sweden – using SWEPACSRI and the Czech Republic – using PERLA. We found that in all three countries, all seasons and season combinations, and for all biotic indices tested, RIVPACS-type models were more effective (lower standard deviations of O/E ratios) than models based solely on the WFD System-A variables or null models (based on a single expectation for all sites). We also investigated the explanatory power of whole groups of WFD System-A variables and RIVPACS-type model variables, and the explanatory power of individual variables. We found that variables used in the RIVPACS-type models were often better correlates of macroinvertebrate community variation than the WFD System-A variables. We conclude that this is primarily because while the latter use very broad categories of map-derived variables, the former are based on continuous variables selected for their ecological significance.


reference condition physical typology RIVPACS SWEPACSRI PERLA 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Davy-Bowker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ralph T. Clarke
    • 1
  • Richard K. Johnson
    • 2
  • Jiri Kokes
    • 3
  • John F. Murphy
    • 1
  • Svetlana Zahrádková
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for Ecology & HydrologyWinfrith Technology CentreDorchester, DorsetUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Department of Environmental AssessmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.T.G.M. Water Research InstituteBrnoCzech Republic
  4. 4.Department of Zoology and Ecology, Faculty of ScienceMasaryk University BrnoBrnoCzech Republic

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