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Assessing trout farm pollution by biological metrics and indices based on aquatic macrophytes and benthic macroinvertebrates: A case study

Camargo, Julio A., Gonzalo, Cristina, Alonso, Álvaro
Ecological indicators 2011 v.11 no.3 pp. 911-917
Chironomidae, Ephemeroptera, Oligochaeta, Plecoptera, Trichoptera, aquatic invertebrates, benthic organisms, biodiversity, case studies, dissolved oxygen, ecosystems, effluents, environmental indicators, fish farms, macroinvertebrates, macrophytes, monitoring, mosses and liverworts, nutrients, physicochemical properties, rivers, sediments, spring, streams, surveys, trout, turbidity, vegetation, water pollution, water quality, winter, Spain
In this study we examine the ecological responses of aquatic macrophytes and benthic macroinvertebrates to a trout farm effluent located in the upper Tajuña River (Guadalajara province, Central Spain), comparing the suitability of biological metrics and indices based on these two communities to assess trout farm pollution in the upper reaches of fluvial ecosystems. Sampling surveys were carried out in winter and summer 2006, and in spring 2007. Four sampling sites were selected along the study reach: S-1, placed upstream from the trout farm, was used as a reference station; S-2, S-3 and S-4 were placed about 10, 100 and 1000m downstream from the trout farm outlet, respectively. The stream bottom was mainly stony with cobbles and pebbles at all sampling sites, except at S-2 where it was covered by a thick layer of organic sediment. Aquatic macrophytes and benthic macroinvertebrates significantly increased in abundance downstream from the trout farm effluent, particularly at S-3 and S-4. However, while the diversity of aquatic macrophytes increased downstream (at S-3 and S-4, but not at S-2), the diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates significantly decreased, particularly at S-2. Regarding aquatic macrophytes, moss coverage values, as well as values of the Index of Macrophytes (IM) and the Macroscopic Aquatic Vegetation Index (MAVI), were higher at S-1 than at S-2. In contrast, values of moss coverage and IM were significantly lower at S-1 than at S-3 and S-4. MAVI values were similar at S-1, S-3 and S-4. Regarding benthic macroinvertebrates, the abundance percentage of oligochaetes and chironomids (expressed as OC%) was significantly higher at downstream polluted sites (particularly at S-2) than at S-1. Conversely, the abundance percentage of ephemeropterans, plecopterans and trichopterans (expressed as EPT%), and scores of the total Biological Monitoring Water Quality (t-BMWQ) index and the average Biological Monitoring Water Quality (a-BMWQ) index were much lower at S-2 than at S-1, with a clear tendency to increase with increasing downstream distance from the trout farm. Correlation analyses showed that changes in physicochemical parameters (inorganic nutrients, dissolved oxygen and turbidity) along the study reach were better correlated with changes in metrics and indices based on benthic macroinvertebrates. Overall it is concluded that metrics and indices based on benthic macroinvertebrates (such as OC% and EPT% metrics and t-BMWQ and a-BMWQ indices) can be more suitable than those based on aquatic macrophytes for the biological monitoring of trout farm pollution in the upper reaches of fluvial ecosystems, since the higher diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates inhabiting the river bottom would permit this community to exhibit a better indicator performance regarding the environmental stress caused by trout farm effluents. However, further studies are needed in order to generalize this conclusion.