Water quality agencies and scientists are increasingly adopting standardized sampling methodologies because of the challenges associated with interpreting data derived from dissimilar protocols. Here, we compare 13 protocols for monitoring streams from different regions and countries around the globe. Despite the spatially diverse range of countries assessed, many aspects of bioassessment structure and protocols were similar, thereby providing evidence of key characteristics that might be incorporated in a global sampling methodology. Similarities were found regarding sampler type, mesh size, sampling period, subsampling methods, and taxonomic resolution. Consistent field and laboratory methods are essential for merging data sets collected by multiple institutions to enable large-scale comparisons. We discuss the similarities and differences among protocols and present current trends and future recommendations for monitoring programs, especially for regions where large-scale protocols do not yet exist. We summarize the current state in one of these regions, Latin America, and comment on the possible development path for these techniques in this region. We conclude that several aspects of stream biomonitoring need additional performance evaluation (accuracy, precision, discriminatory power, relative costs), particularly when comparing targeted habitat (only the commonest habitat type) versus site-wide sampling (multiple habitat types), appropriate levels of sampling and processing effort, and standardized indicators to resolve dissimilarities among biomonitoring methods. Global issues such as climate change are creating an environment where there is an increasing need to have universally consistent data collection, processing and storage to enable large-scale trend analysis. Biomonitoring programs following standardized methods could aid international data sharing and interpretation.
- Biological assessment
- Biomonitoring protocols
- River management
- Subsampling taxonomic resolution