Article

Re-evaluating expectations for river phytobenthos assessment and understanding the relationship with macrophytes

Citation

Kelly MG, Phillips G, Juggins S & Willby NJ (2020) Re-evaluating expectations for river phytobenthos assessment and understanding the relationship with macrophytes. Ecological Indicators, 117, Art. No.: 106582. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2020.106582

Abstract
The reference model underlying the UK phytobenthos (diatom) tool for Water Framework Directive assessments is revisited and a new approach is proposed which uses quantile regression to predict the lowest values of the Trophic Diatom Index (equating to the best available condition) at any level of alkalinity . Whilst a reference model based on least disturbed or minimally impacted conditions would be preferable in theory, in practice the absence of lowland high alkalinity streams in a minimally impacted condition in the UK precludes the use of these approaches. Having proposed a revised reference model for phytobenthos, we then go on to examine the relationship between phytobenthos and macrophytes. These two groups respond to nutrients and other stressors in different ways with phytobenthos being more sensitive to nutrients whilst macrophytes better reflect the extent to which secondary effects are likely. We argue that averaging the two sub-elements of the “macrophytes and phytobenthos” biological quality element is a more realistic option than the current approach of taking the lower of the two assessments. It is, however, possible, to predict the value of the combined quality element from either sub-element, though we recognize that this also risks misclassifications.

Keywords
Diatoms; Phytobenthos; Reference concept; Water Framework Directive; Macrophytes; Rivers

Journal
Ecological Indicators: Volume 117

StatusPublished
FundersScottish Environment Protection Agency
Publication date31/10/2020
Publication date online05/06/2020
Date accepted by journal27/05/2020
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/31344
ISSN1470-160X
eISSN1872-7034