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Developing a multimetric index of ecological integrity based on macroinvertebrates of mountain ponds in central Italy

Solimini, Angelo G., Bazzanti, Marcello, Ruggiero, Antonio, Carchini, Gianmaria
Hydrobiologia 2008 v.597 no.1 pp. 109-123
Ephemeroptera, Odonata, Trichoptera, biological assessment, chlorophyll, macroinvertebrates, mountains, natural resource management, pollution, ponds, summer, watersheds, Italy
The lack of biological systems for the assessment of ecological quality specific to mountain ponds prevents the effective management of these natural resources. In this article we develop an index based on macroinvertebrates sensitive to the gradient of nutrient enrichment. With this aim, we sampled 31 ponds along a gradient of trophy and with similar geomorphological characteristics and watershed use in protected areas of the central Apennines. A bioassessment protocol was adopted to collect and process benthic samples and key-associated physical, chemical, and biological variables during the summer growth season of 1998. We collected 61 genera of macroinvertebrates belonging to 31 families. We calculated 31 macroinvertebrate metrics based on selected and total taxa richness, richness of some key groups, abundance, functional groups and tolerance to organic pollution. The gradient of trophy was quantified with summer concentrations of chlorophyll a. We followed a stepwise procedure to evaluate the effectiveness of a given metric for use in the multimetric index. Those were the pollution tolerance metric ASPT, three metrics based on taxonomic richness (the richness of macroinvertebrate genera, the richness of chironomid taxa, and the percentage of total richness composed by Ephemeroptera, Odonata, and Trichoptera), two metrics based on FFG attributes (richness of collector gatherer taxa and richness of scraper taxa) and the habit-based metric richness of burrowers. The 95th percentile of each metric distribution among all ponds was trisected for metric scoring. The final Pond Macroinvertebrate Integrity Index ranged from 7 to 35 and had a good correlation (R ² = 0.71) with the original gradient of environmental degradation.