Aquatic biomonitoring

Aquatic biomonitoring is the science of inferring the ecological condition of rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands by examining the organisms that live there. While aquatic biomonitoring is the most common form of biomonitoring, any ecosystem can be studied in this manner.

Biomonitoring typically takes different approaches:

  • Bioassays, where test organisms are exposed to an environment to see if mutations or deaths occur. Typical organisms used in bioassays are fish, water fleas (Daphnia), and frogs.
  • Community assessments, also called biosurveys, where an entire community of organisms is sampled to see what types of taxa remain. In aquatic ecosystems, these assessments often focus on invertebrates, algae, macrophytes (aquatic plants), fish, or amphibians.[1] Rarely, other large vertebrates (reptiles, birds, and mammals) may be considered as well.
  • Online biomonitoring devices, using the ability of animals to permanently taste their environment. Different types of animals are used for this purpose either in the lab or in the field. The study of the opening and closing activity of clams' valves is an example of one possible way to monitor in-situ the quality of fresh and coastal waters.[2]

Aquatic invertebrates have the longest history of use in biomonitoring programs.[3] In typical unpolluted temperate streams of Europe and North America, certain insect taxa predominate. Mayflies (Ephemeroptera), caddisflies (Trichoptera), and stoneflies (Plecoptera) are the most common insects in these undisturbed streams. In contrast, in rivers disturbed by urbanization, agriculture, forestry, and other perturbations, flies (Diptera), and especially midges (family Chironomidae) predominate. Aquatic invertebrates are responsive to climate change.[4][5]

Nelda Phillips and Melissa Hoilman with their D nets (4977519860)
A biosurvey on the North Toe River. North Carolina


Aquatic biomonitoring is important in assessing marine life forms and their ecosystems. Monitoring aquatic life, from which life on land evolved, can also be beneficial in understanding land ecosystems.[6]

Aquatic biomonitoring can reveal the overall health and status of the environment, can detect environmental trends and how different stressors will affect those trends, and can interpret the effect that various environmental activities will have on the overall health of the environment.[7] Pollution and general stresses to aquatic life can have a major impact on the environment. The main sources of pollution to oceans, rivers, and lakes are sewage, oil spills, land runoff, littering, ocean mining, and nuclear waste. Pollution greatly upsets marine life and can endanger species that live in or close to water. Because many aquatic animals serve as a main food source for many land animals, when aquatic species are affected, it causes a ripple effect in land species. Biomonitoring can help mitigate such problems through monitoring all forms of life and conditions in different bodies of water, both fresh and salt water.

A challenge in aquatic biomonitoring is to simplify data and make data easier for all to understand, especially investigators in the health and environmental fields.[7]


Methods employed in aquatic biomonitoring are:

monitoring and assessing aquatic species and ecosystems,
monitoring the behavior of certain aquatic species and assessing any changes in species behavior, and
looking at contaminants in the water and their effect on marine life.[8]

Water quality is graded both on appearance-- for example: clear, cloudy, full of algae-- and on its chemistry levels.[9] Determining levels of enzymes and minerals found in water is extremely important. Changes in these factors can change the overall aquatic environment and can severely impact aquatic life. Some contaminants, such as metal and certain organic waste, can be lethal to individual creatures and could thereby ultimately lead to extinction of certain species.[8] This could affect both aquatic and land ecosystems and cause disruption in other biomes and ecosystems.

See also


  1. ^ Karr, James R. (1981). "Assessment of biotic integrity using fish communities". Fisheries. 6 (6): 21–27. doi:10.1577/1548-8446(1981)006<0021:AOBIUF>2.0.CO;2. ISSN 1548-8446.
  2. ^ "MolluScan Eye". Environnements et Paléoenvironnements Océaniques et Continentaux. Talence, France: Université de Bordeaux. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  3. ^ Barbour, M.T.; Gerritsen, J.; Snyder, B.D.; Stribling, J.B. (1999). Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Streams and Wadeable Rivers: Periphyton, Benthic Macroinvertebrates and Fish (Report) (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Office of Water. EPA 841-B-99-002.
  4. ^ Lawrence, J.E., K.B. Lunde, R.D. Mazor, L.A. Bêche, E.P. McElravy, and V.H. Resh. 2010. "Long-Term Macroinvertebrate Responses to Climate Change: Implications for Biological Assessment in Mediterranean-Climate Streams." Archived 2015-07-04 at the Wayback Machine Journal of the North American Benthological Society 29: 1424-1440.
  5. ^ Filipe, A.F.; J.E. Lawrence; N. Bonada (November 2013). "Vulnerability of Biota in Mediterranean Streams to Climate Change: A Synthesis of Ecological Responses and Conservation Challenges". Hydrobiologia. 719: 331–351. doi:10.1007/s10750-012-1244-4. hdl:2445/48186.
  6. ^ "Why Biological Monitoring? -- Monitoring and Assessment, Bureau of Land and Water Quality, Maine Department of Environmental Protection". Retrieved 2016-12-14.
  7. ^ a b "biomonitoring – StraightUp Environmental". Retrieved 2016-12-14.
  8. ^ a b Bartram, Jamie (1996-01-01). "Water quality monitoring: a practical guide to the design and implementation of freshwater quality studies and monitoring programmes". ResearchGate.
  9. ^ "Biomonitoring - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation". Retrieved 2016-12-14.
  • Rosenberg, David M.; Resh, Vincent H., eds. (1993). Freshwater Biomonitoring and Benthic Macroinvertebrates. New York: Chapman and Hall. ISBN 978-0412022517.

External links


A bioindicator is any species (an indicator species) or group of species whose function, population, or status can reveal the qualitative status of the environment. For example, copepods and other small water crustaceans that are present in many water bodies can be monitored for changes (biochemical, physiological, or behavioural) that may indicate a problem within their ecosystem. Bioindicators can tell us about the cumulative effects of different pollutants in the ecosystem and about how long a problem may have been present, which physical and chemical testing cannot.A biological monitor or biomonitor is an organism that provides quantitative information on the quality of the environment around it. Therefore, a good biomonitor will indicate the presence of the pollutant and also attempt to provide additional information about the amount and intensity of the exposure.

A biological indicator is also the name given to a process for assessing the sterility of an environment through the use of resistant microorganism strains (eg. Bacillus or Geobacillus). Biological indicators can be described as the introduction of a highly resistant microorganisms to a given environment before sterilization, tests are conducted to measure the effectiveness of the sterilization processes. As biological indicators use highly resistant microorganisms, you can be assured that any sterilization process that renders them inactive will have also killed off more common, weaker pathogens.

Discharge Monitoring Report

A Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) is a United States regulatory term for a periodic water pollution report prepared by industries, municipalities and other facilities discharging to surface waters. The facilities collect wastewater samples, conduct chemical and/or biological tests of the samples, and submit reports to a state agency or the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All point source dischargers to ”Waters of the U.S.” must obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the appropriate agency, and many permittees are required to file DMRs.

Fish kill

The term fish kill, known also as fish die-off, refers to a localized die-off of fish populations which may also be associated with more generalized mortality of aquatic life. The most common cause is reduced oxygen in the water, which in turn may be due to factors such as drought, algae bloom, overpopulation, or a sustained increase in water temperature. Infectious diseases and parasites can also lead to fish kill. Toxicity is a real but far less common cause of fish kill.Fish kills are often the first visible signs of environmental stress and are usually investigated as a matter of urgency by environmental agencies to determine the cause of the kill. Many fish species have a relatively low tolerance of variations in environmental conditions and their death is often a potent indicator of problems in their environment that may be affecting other animals and plants and may have a direct impact on other uses of the water such as for drinking water production. Pollution events may affect fish species and fish age classes in different ways. If it is a cold-related fish kill, juvenile fish or species that are not cold-tolerant may be selectively affected. If toxicity is the cause, species are more generally affected and the event may include amphibians and shellfish as well. A reduction in dissolved oxygen may affect larger specimens more than smaller fish as these may be able to access oxygen richer water at the surface, at least for a short time.

Index of biodiversity articles

This is a list of topics in biodiversity.


Invertebrates are animals that neither possess nor develop a vertebral column (commonly known as a backbone or spine), derived from the notochord. This includes all animals apart from the subphylum Vertebrata. Familiar examples of invertebrates include arthropods (insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and myriapods), mollusks (chitons, snails, bivalves, squids, and octopuses), annelids (earthworms and leeches), and cnidarians (hydras, jellyfishes, sea anemones, and corals).

The majority of animal species are invertebrates; one estimate puts the figure at 97%. Many invertebrate taxa have a greater number and variety of species than the entire subphylum of Vertebrata.Some of the so-called invertebrates, such as the Tunicata and Cephalochordata are more closely related to the vertebrates than to other invertebrates. This makes the invertebrates paraphyletic, so the term has little meaning in taxonomy.

Outline of fishing

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to fishing:

Fishing – activity of trying to catch fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping.


RIVPACS (River Invertebrate Prediction and Classification System) is an aquatic biomonitoring system for assessing water quality in freshwater rivers in the United Kingdom. It is based on the macroinvertebrate species (such as freshwater shrimp, freshwater sponges, worms, crayfish, aquatic snails, freshwater mussels, insects, and many others) found at the study site during sampling. Some of these species are tolerant to pollution, low dissolved oxygen, and other stressors, but others are sensitive; organisms vary in their tolerances. Therefore, different species will usually be found, in different proportions, at different river sites of varying quality. Some organisms are especially good indicator species. The species found at the reference sites collectively make up the species assemblage for that site and are the basis for a statistical comparison between reference sites and non-reference sites. The comparison between the expected species and the observed species can then be used to estimate this aspect of the ecological health of a river.

The system is meant to be standardized, easy to use, and relatively low cost. It can complement other types of water quality monitoring such as chemical monitoring. RIVPACS supports the implementation of the Water Framework Directive as its official tool for macroinvertebrate classificationReference sites can be chosen and adjusted several ways. Usually they represent the best conditions within the region or area under study, and are a short stretch of river. Sometimes the reference site expectations are adjusted for degradation of the entire region by human impact. 'Pristine' freshwater sites are sampled to collect information on physical characteristics, chemistry, and macroinvertebrates, sometimes several times each year. This information is then used to predict what invertebrates are present from samples of physiochemistry from other sites.

RIVPACS is used across the UK and supported by Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Countryside Council for Wales, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Natural England, Environment Agency, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Freshwater Biological Association, Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, South West Water, and Welsh Assembly Government.This classification of freshwater sites based on the macroinvertebrate fauna was first derived in 1977. Since then it has been developed and updated with addition of a wider range of freshwater sites. It has been adapted into various other versions around the world, including a Canadian version known as CABIN, AUSRIVAS in Australia, MEDPACS in Spain, and others.

Water quality

Water quality refers to the chemical, physical, biological, and radiological characteristics of water. It is a measure of the condition of water relative to the requirements of one or more biotic species and or to any human need or purpose. It is most frequently used by reference to a set of standards against which compliance, generally achieved through treatment of the water, can be assessed. The most common standards used to assess water quality relate to health of ecosystems, safety of human contact, and drinking water.

Aquatic ecosystems

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