1. Sampling and processing of benthic macroinvertebrate samples is time consuming and expensive. Although a number of cost-cutting options exist, a frequently asked question is how representative a subset of data is of the whole community, in particular in areas where habitat diversity is high (like Dutch surface water habitats). 2. Weighted averaging was used to reassign 650 samples to a typology of 40 community types, testing the representativeness of different subsets of data: (i) four different types of data (presence/absence, raw, (2)log- and ln-transformed abundance), (ii) three subsets of 'indicator' taxa (taxa with indicator weights 4-12, 7-12, and 10-12) and (iii) single taxonomic groups (n = 14) by determining the classification error. 3. (2)log- and ln-transformed abundances resulted in the lowest classification error, whilst the use of qualitative data resulted in a reduction of 10% of the samples assigned to their original community type compared to the use of ln-transformed abundance data. 4. Samples from community types with a high number of unique indicator taxa had the lowest classification error, and classification error increased as similarity among community types increased. Using a subset of indicator taxa resulted in a maximum increase of the classification error of 15% when only taxa with an indicator weight 10-12 were included (error = 49.1%). 5. Use of single taxonomic groups resulted in high classification error, the lowest classification error was found using Trichoptera (68%), and was related to the frequency of the taxonomic group among samples and the indicator weights of the taxa. 6. Our findings that the use of qualitative data, subsets of indicator taxa or single taxonomic groups resulted in high classification error implies low taxonomic redundancy, and supports the use of all taxa in characterising a macroinvertebrate community, in particular in areas where habitat diversity is high.
- benthic macroinvertebrate communities
- taxonomic resolution
- ecological assessment