Feb 02

The influence of flow permanence and drying pattern on macroinvertebrate biomonitoring tools used in the assessment of riverine ecosystems

The influence of flow permanence and drying pattern on macroinvertebrate biomonitoring tools used in the assessment of riverine ecosystems


International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton,
Centre for Hydrological and Ecosystem Science, Department of Geography, Loughborough University,
Environment Agency of England,
Wessex Water,

Ecological Indicators

Volume 85, February 2018, Pages 548-555



Effects of drying patterns on macroinvertebrate biomonitoring tools are examined.

All indices differed significantly between temporary and perennial sites.

Biomonitoring tools also varied as a function of the drying pattern.

A reduction in flow permanence resulted in a decline of all index values.


Temporary rivers comprise a significant proportion of river networks globally and their prevalence is expected to increase as a result of future climate change and anthropogenic water resource pressures. Despite this, the influence of drying events on freshwater biomonitoring tools within temporary rivers has received limited research attention within temperate environments. This study examines the effects of flow permanence and longitudinal drying patterns on selected biomonitoring indices used within the United Kingdom to assess the ecological status of waterbodies within the context of the Water Framework Directive. These indices are based on faunal tolerances and preferences to nutrient enrichment (BMWP, ASPT and Ntaxa) and flow velocity (Family LIFE). Long-term biomonitoring data from four rivers within southern England were examined, two of which dry longitudinally from the headwaters and two that dry within the mid-reaches. The results demonstrate that all of the biomonitoring indices examined differed significantly between each ‘hydrological class’ (i.e. temporary versus perennial reaches), with those based on absolute scores (BMWP and Ntaxa) displaying greater differences compared to those derived using scores standardized by the number of taxa recorded (ASPT and Family LIFE). The individual influence of drying pattern did not have a significant effect on any biomonitoring index. However, the interaction between the hydrological class and drying pattern significantly influenced all biomonitoring indices, indicating that the effect of flow intermittency on the metrics examined differed between drying patterns. Flow permanence explained a greater amount of statistical variation compared to the hydrological class and highlights the importance of the duration of flowing conditions on biomonitoring indices. The results indicate that flow intermittency has a significant effect on freshwater biomonitoring tools and highlights the need to incorporate this knowledge into existing management and environmental policy frameworks to prevent the misclassification of the ecological status of temporary streams.


Aquatic invertebrates
Biological indices
Ecological assessment
Stream drying
Temporary streams