Testing the European stream typology of the Water Framework Directive for macroinvertebrates

P.F.M. Verdonschot, R.C. Nijboer

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84 Citations (Scopus)


In the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) a typological framework is defined for assessing the ecological quality of water bodies in the future. The conditions in the Directive impose a strong demand for `new' assessment systems. During the AQEM project an assessment system was developed for European streams using macroinvertebrates. The aim of this study was to test if the typology suggested in the WFD is useful for developing an assessment system for macroinvertebrates in streams. In total 889 streams of 29 stream types were sampled in eight countries all over the major geographical gradients in Europe. These stream types fit the WFD typological demands and fit to the major European geographic regions (ecoregions). The sites included gradients from reference conditions (for the definition see Nijboer et al., 2004) to sites with bad ecological quality. Despite standardisation there were large differences between the participating countries concerning the number of taxa, the number of specimens and the taxonomic resolution. The data, including macroinvertebrates and environmental variables were analysed by using Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA). The observed macroinvertebrate distribution largely supported the WFD typological criteria. This means that the major macroinvertebrate distribution patterns in European streams follow climatological and geomorphological conditions and are well distinguished in terms of stream types. Furthermore, it was shown that large scale factors affected the macroinvertebrate distribution even on a very fine scale. Most explanatory variables seemed to be scale independent. Even at a fine scale major factors concerning geology, geomorphology and hydrology added to the species occurrences. Within stream types morphology together with physico-chemistry best explained the macroinvertebrates distribution. In conclusion, the WFD typology is useful for an assessment system for streams using macroinvertebrates. The large scale factors were indeed the variables that explained most of the variation in species composition. But as these factors even strongly act at the scale of stream types, a further refinement is most probably necessary to disentangle typological actors from water quality ones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-54
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • water management
  • ecology
  • watersheds
  • quality controls
  • aquatic invertebrates
  • water pollution
  • assessment
  • testing
  • water quality
  • directives
  • eu regulations
  • water framework directive
  • aquatic ecosystems
  • ecological assessment
  • running waters
  • communities
  • management
  • systems


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