Overview and application of the AQEM assessment system

D. Hering, O. Moog, L. Sandin, P.F.M. Verdonschot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

384 Citations (Scopus)


The main objective of the European Union (EU) funded project AQEM1was to develop a framework of an assessment system for streams in Europe based on benthic macroinvertebrates that fulfils the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive. Initial assessment methods for 28 European stream types and more generally applicable tools for stream biomonitoring in Europe were generated. The development of the system was based on a newly collected data set covering stream types in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden. Altogether, 901 benthic invertebrate samples were taken using a standardised multi-habitat sampling procedure and a large number of parameters describing the streams and their catchments was recorded for all sampling sites. From the stream and catchment characteristics measures of stress were derived. A large number of metrics was tested independently for each of the stream types, to identify the response of each metric to degradation of a site. This process resulted in up to 18 core metrics for the individual stream types, which were combined into a different multimetric index in each country. The multimetric AQEM assessment system is used to classify a stream stretch into an Ecological Quality Class ranging from 5 (high quality) to 1 (bad quality) and often provides information on the possible causes of degradation. AQEM provides a taxa list of 9557 European macroinvertebrate taxa with associated autecological information, a software package for performing all the calculations necessary for applying the multimetric AQEM assessment system and a manual describing all aspects of the application of the system from site selection to data interpretation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • macroinvertebrates
  • quality
  • streams


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