Quantifying cumulative stress acting on macroinvertebrate assemblages in lowland streams

Jip de Vries*, Michiel H.S. Kraak, Ralf C.M. Verdonschot, Piet F.M. Verdonschot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Macroinvertebrates in lowland streams are exposed to multiple stressors from the surrounding environment. Yet, quantifying how these multiple stressors impact macroinvertebrate assemblages is challenging. The aim of this study was to develop a novel method to quantify the cumulative stress acting on macroinvertebrate assemblages in lowland streams. To this purpose, we considered 22 stressors from different stressor categories such as hydrological, morphological and chemical stressors, acting over multiple spatial scales ranging from instream to the catchment scale. Stressor intensity was categorized into classes based on impact on the macroinvertebrate assemblages. The main stream was divided into segments, after which for each stream segment, the cumulative stressor contribution from headwater catchments, from the riparian zone and from upstream was calculated. To validate the cumulative stress quantification method, the lowland stream Tungelroyse Beek in the Netherlands was used as a case study. For this stream it was shown that independently derived ecological quality scores based on macroinvertebrate samples collected at multiple sites along the stream decreased with increasing calculated cumulative stress scores, supporting the design of the cumulative stress quantification method. Based on the contribution of each specific stressor to the cumulative stress scores, the reasons for the absence and presence of macroinvertebrate species may be elucidated. Hence, the cumulative stress quantification method may help to identify and localize the most stringent stressors limiting macroinvertebrate assemblages, and can thereby provide a better focus for management resources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133630
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Ecological water quality
  • Instream stressors
  • Lowland stream
  • Macroinvertebrates
  • Quantification method


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