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International Conference on Climate Change Global Warming

Berlin, Germany
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Biological monitoring of eutrophication in rivers

Author(s): Kelly MG, Whitton BA


There is an increasing awareness of the need to assess the impact of nutrient enrichment on river ecosystems separately from the impacts of organic effluents. A range of methods have been proposed and some have moved from the development stage to practical use by water management organizations. The methods can be applied to broad surveys or provide baseline information to assess possible future change. In the latter case it is recommended that several different methods are used, especially where it is important to get reliable information on the long-term impact of improvements in effluent quality. Estimates of biomass measured as chlorophyll a have often been used for phytoplankton and sometimes also for benthic communities. However, a lot of care is needed in applying this method, because of the range of factors besides nutrient concentration which can influence values. Approaches based on the whole community have been developed by a number of research groups, usually involving semiquantitative estimates of abundance. There has also been a rapid increase in the use of indices based on the relative proportions of epilithic diatom species. The methodologies used by a number of research groups in Europe are broadly similar, making it possible to compare results between different regions. The development of indices based on macrophyte floristic composition in relation to river nutrient status is also under development, especially in France and UK. However, interpretation of the results is complicated where long-term changes are taking place in nutrient concentrations in the water, because of the varying contributions of sediment and water to different species of rooted plant. Bioassays can be especially helpful where it is desired to establish whether either N or P is limiting for a population of community.

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