Bioassessment of stream ecosystems enduring a decade of simulated degradation: lessons for the real world

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The effects on benthic macroinvertebrate communities of simulated degradation of streams enabled evaluation of the effects of starting condition, type of degradation, and biota descriptor on the type 1 and type 2 error rates of bioassessment. Benthic macroinvertebrate communities from five reference streams in the Fraser River basin (British Columbia, Canada) were used as the starting conditions of replicated simulations of the effects of suspended sediments in three temporal patterns (none, one-time severe, constant moderate). The dynamics of the simulated stream communities and the type 1 and type 2 errors associated with bioassessments, as described by (i) taxon richness, (ii) EPT (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera) richness, (iii) proportion of EPT individuals in the community, (iv) difference in composition from the median reference community (MCDist), (v) Simpson’s diversity, and (vi) Simpson’s equitability, depended on the combination of starting condition, simpact treatment, and the biota descriptor. To reduce type 1 and type 2 errors in bioassessments using the reference condition approach, bioassessment programs should include (i) matching of test and expected reference communities and refinement of the definition of reference condition and (ii) several biota descriptors that include measures of richness, tolerance, and community composition.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Parks Canada Agency, Western and Northern Service Centre, 1550, 635-8th Avenue, SW, Calgary, AB T2P 3M3, Canada. 2: Parks Canada Agency, Terra Nova National Park, General Delivery, Glovertown, NL A0G 2L0, Canada. 3: Parks Canada Agency, Atlantic Service Centre, 1869 Upper Water Street, Halifax, NS B3J 1S3, Canada. 4: The Ecology Centre, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, QLD, Australia. 5: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA.

Publication date: April 16, 2012

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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