Hydrobiologia

, 610:245

Critical influence of seasonal sampling on the ecological quality assessment of small headwater streams

  • Maria Callanan
  • Jan-Robert Baars
  • Mary Kelly-Quinn
Primary research paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10750-008-9439-4

Cite this article as:
Callanan, M., Baars, JR. & Kelly-Quinn, M. Hydrobiologia (2008) 610: 245. doi:10.1007/s10750-008-9439-4

Abstract

Variability in the ecological quality assessment of reference sites was tested on small headwater streams in Ireland. Although headwater streams constitute a large portion of the river channel network, they are not routinely monitored for water quality. Various metrics were used including the Irish Q-value and the newly developed Small Streams Risk Score (SSRS), and metrics applied elsewhere in the Atlantic biogeographic region in Europe, including the Biological Monitoring Working Party score (BMWP), the Average Score per Taxon (ASPT), the Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera taxa (EPT), the Belgium Biotic Index (BBI) and the Danish Stream Fauna Index (DSFI). The AQEM (version 2.5a) assessment software was used to apply some of these metrics. The spring and summer datasets are used to test the performance of biotic metrics with respect to season, and the applicability of their use to assess the ecological quality of wadeable streams. The quality status of most sites assigned by the various metrics was high using the spring invertebrate data, and an apparent considerable deviation in quality status occurred when the summer data was applied. Seasonal differences were noted using all the biotic indices and are attributed to the absence of pollution-sensitive groups in summer. Seasonal variability in the water quality status was particularly evident in acidic streams draining non-calcareous geologies with peaty soils that had relatively lower numbers of taxa. Some indices applied reflect a greater seasonal difference in the quality category assigned. The least amount of variability between seasons was obtained using the ASPT and the SSRS risk assessment system. Results suggest that reference status is reliably reflected in spring when more pollution-sensitive taxa were present, and that a new ecological quality assessment tool is required for application in summer when impacts may be most severe. This highly heterogeneous freshwater habitat seems to have too few taxa present in the summer to reliably determine the ecological quality of the stream using the available indices.

Keywords

Water quality Biological monitoring Benthic macroinvertebrates Seasonal variation Pollution 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Callanan
    • 1
  • Jan-Robert Baars
    • 1
  • Mary Kelly-Quinn
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biology and Environmental Science, Science Education and Research Centre (West), Freshwater Ecology Research GroupUniversity College DublinBelfieldIreland

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