Quantifying the effect of catchment land-use and water nutrient concentrations on freshwater river and stream biodiversity

M.J. Weijters, J.H. Janse, J.R.M. Alkemade, J.T.A. Verhoeven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)


A major threat to freshwater taxon diversity is the alteration of natural catchment Land use into agriculture, industry or urban areas and the associated eutrophication of the water. In order to stop freshwater biodiversity loss, it is essential to quantify the relationships between freshwater diversity and catchment Land use and water nutrient concentrations. 2. A literature survey was carried out on biodiversity data from rivers and streams. Fish and macroinvertebrates were selected as focal groups as they are widely used as indicator species of river and stream health. Only published data were selected that (a) compared data found at impaired sites with a pristine reference situation (either in time or space), (b) clearly defined the stressors studied (Land use cover and/or nutrient concentrations), and (c) clearly defined biodiversity (number of native species, species lists or IBI-scores). 3. The number of native taxa found in each study was transferred in an index of relative taxon richness (RTR) ranging from 0 (severely altered) to 100 (pristine reference conditions). Only those taxa were included that were (at least) present in the most pristine situation. This made it possible to combine, compare and analyse results from different studies. Catchment Land use was expressed as the percentage of non-natural Land use (agriculture, industry, housing or mining). As a measure of nutrients, the concentrations of NO3, NH4, PO4, total N and total P in the river and stream water were used. 4. Over 240 published articles have been studied, but only 22 met the criteria described above and could be used for further analysis. 5. This study showed that altered catchment Land use has a major effect on freshwater biodiversity and that the rate of species loss is serious; on average every 10% of lost natural catchment Land use cover leads to a loss of almost 6% (±0.83) of the native freshwater fish and macroinvertebrate species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-112
JournalAquatic conservation: marine and freshwater ecosystems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • multiple spatial scales
  • biotic integrity
  • new-zealand
  • community structure
  • nonpoint pollution
  • fish communities
  • surface waters
  • north-carolina
  • phosphorus
  • impacts

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Quantifying the effect of catchment land-use and water nutrient concentrations on freshwater river and stream biodiversity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this