Biomonitoring of intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams in Europe: Current practice and priorities to enhance ecological status assessments

Rachel Stubbington*, Richard Chadd, Núria Cid, Zoltán Csabai, Marko Miliša, Manuela Morais, Antoni Munné, Petr Pařil, Vladimir Pešić, Iakovos Tziortzis, Ralf C.M. Verdonschot, Thibault Datry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams (IRES) are common across Europe and dominate some Mediterranean river networks. In all climate zones, IRES support high biodiversity and provide ecosystem services. As dynamic ecosystems that transition between flowing, pool, and dry states, IRES are typically poorly represented in biomonitoring programmes implemented to characterize EU Water Framework Directive ecological status. We report the results of a survey completed by representatives from 20 European countries to identify current challenges to IRES status assessment, examples of best practice, and priorities for future research. We identify five major barriers to effective ecological status classification in IRES: 1. the exclusion of IRES from Water Framework Directive biomonitoring based on their small catchment size; 2. the lack of river typologies that distinguish between contrasting IRES; 3. difficulties in defining the 'reference conditions' that represent unimpacted dynamic ecosystems; 4. classification of IRES ecological status based on lotic communities sampled using methods developed for perennial rivers; and 5. a reliance on taxonomic characterization of local communities. Despite these challenges, we recognize examples of innovative practice that can inform modification of current biomonitoring activity to promote effective IRES status classification. Priorities for future research include reconceptualization of the reference condition approach to accommodate spatiotemporal fluctuations in community composition, and modification of indices of ecosystem health to recognize both taxon-specific sensitivities to intermittence and dispersal abilities, within a landscape context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1096-1113
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume618
Early online date1 Nov 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2018

Keywords

  • Bioassessment
  • Bioindicators
  • River typology
  • Temporary rivers
  • Temporary streams
  • Water Framework Directive

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    Stubbington, R., Chadd, R., Cid, N., Csabai, Z., Miliša, M., Morais, M., Munné, A., Pařil, P., Pešić, V., Tziortzis, I., Verdonschot, R. C. M., & Datry, T. (2018). Biomonitoring of intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams in Europe: Current practice and priorities to enhance ecological status assessments. Science of the Total Environment, 618, 1096-1113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.09.137