Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 1328–1339 | Cite as

Assessment of Biotic Integrity of the Coastal Freshwater Tidal Zone of a Temperate Estuary of South America through Multiple Indicators

  • N. Gómez
  • M. Licursi
  • D. E. Bauer
  • E. S. Ambrosio
  • A. Rodrigues Capítulo


The aim of this study was to propose an index [Index of Biotic Integrity for the Río de la Plata (IBIRP)] formulated from a minimum of information-rich metrics related to biological integrity for evaluation of the coastal freshwater tidal zone of the Río de la Plata estuary. A total of 23 sites were selected along 170 km of shoreline (34°27′10″ S, 58°30′21″ W and 35°23′28″ S, 57°08′50″ W), being influenced by different land uses. We explored 36 biotic descriptors (designated candidate metrics), each of which is considered as an environmental indicator, and selected four metrics: two related to phytoplankton assemblage (planktonic cyanobacterial density and phytoplanktonic total density) and two linked to benthic assemblages, the diatoms (percent most tolerant taxa), and the invertebrates (percent Tanaidacea). The metrics that were chosen to integrate the IBIRP provide valuable information about the biotic integrity both in terms of time and space. The multimetric index can assume values between 0 (very bad status) and 10 (very good status). The IBIRP correlated significantly with the second (p < 0.001) and fourth (p < 0.01) factors of the factor analysis—those being related to variables indicative of eutrophication and organic pollution. This index constitutes an approach that is capable of reflecting the anthropogenic impacts produced along the coast of the Río de la Plata, with the inherent flexibility of being subject to modification and ultimate validation for estuaries of similar characteristics.


Estuary Freshwater tidal zone Biotic-integrity index Phytoplankton Benthic diatoms Benthic invertebrates 



The authors would like to thank Jorge L. Donadelli for his assistance in chemical analysis and to Lic. J. Cochero for his assistance in the field and laboratory. We also wish to thank the assistance of the librarian Ricardo Albino. This study was supported by the projects ANPCyT, PICT 32077, and CONICET-PIP Res. 1556. The authors also wish to thank Dr. Donald F. Haggerty, a retired career investigator and native English speaker, for editing the final version of the manuscript. Finally, we would like to express our thanks to the anonymous reviewers for improvements in this manuscript. This is Instituto de Limnología “Dr. R. A. Ringuelet” scientific contribution no. 906.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. Gómez
    • 1
  • M. Licursi
    • 1
  • D. E. Bauer
    • 1
  • E. S. Ambrosio
    • 1
  • A. Rodrigues Capítulo
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Limnología Dr. R. A. RingueletCONICET (CCT La Plata)-UNLP (FCNyM)Florencio VarelaArgentina

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