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Development of a multimetric benthic macroinvertebrate index for assessing the ecological condition of Basque streams (north of Spain)

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Multimetric indices based on biological communities for the assessment of the ecological status of streams and rivers have recently been developed for many regions. However, local differences in reference conditions, human impacts and biological communities make developing suitable indices for different regions of the world necessary. Thus, our goal was to develop and validate a multimetric index based on macroinvertebrates to evaluate the ecological status of streams from the Basque Country (north Spain). For this, 22 lowland calcareous streams (7 reference and 15 disturbed) were monitored from 1993 to 2005. At each study site, a stress level was calculated based on human impacts. Fifty-three macroinvertebrate metrics were tested for their capability to discern stress level. Our multimetric index was calculated as the mean of six metrics – genus richness, IBMWP, abundance of Sel_EPTD, abundance of Sel_ETD’, family richness of Sel_ETD and family richness of EPT. The index was split into five ecological status classes, ranging from 0 (bad ecological status) to 1 (high ecological status). This index was validated in 231 study sites in 108 streams of six different typologies, demonstrating suitability for application in biomonitoring and assessment studies in Basque streams.
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... Furthermore, the CFi was validated with four other biological indices to assess the ecological status of streams, as calculated for 98 streams during the period 2010 -2014 (totaling 364 study cases). These indices were: 1) EFI+ (EFI+ Consortium 2009), based on fish assemblages and developed with the goal to be applied across Europe, 2) ECP (Uragentzia 2012), based on fish assemblages and applied in the Basque Country (a region of the Northern Iberian Peninsula), 3) MBi (Gartzia de Bikuña et al. 2015), based on macroinvertebrate assemblages and applied in the Basque Country, and 4) IPS (Coste 1982;Uragentzia 2014), based on diatom assemblages. ...
... Nevertheless, this metric was considered to shape the index. This exception is not unique when constructing multimetric indices (see Baptista et al. 2011;Gartzia de Bikuña et al. 2015), giving more attention to the biological information than to the statistical tests. Salmo trutta is the most widely distributed freshwater fish native to the Palearctic region and across most of Europe, including the Iberian Peninsula, western Asia, and parts of North Africa (Bernatchez 2001). ...
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... The excellent condition threshold was set using the 25th percentile value of reference wetlands. The range of values under the excellent condition threshold was split into three equal-sized groups to determine the thresholds among good, fair, and poor categories (Gartzia de Bikuna et al., 2015). ...
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