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Benthic Macroinvertebrate Monitoring

Benthic macroinvertibrate monitoring Benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Resource Briefs

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Monitoring Reports

This sampling protocol is currently under development.

For more information contact: Jim Comiskey

Justification

Benthic macroinvertebrates are a vital component of all healthy stream ecosystems. They are instrumental in nutrient and carbon dynamics and are themselves an important link in stream food webs. Moreover, unlike fish and periphyton (i.e., benthic algae), benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages are both productive and diverse in virtually all undisturbed streams with permanent flow.

This is an important consideration in MIDN because many of the smaller tributary streams of component parks have gradients and natural barriers that impede the movement of fish, as well as canopies that restrict light and consequently limit algal productivity. As a result, fish and periphyton assemblages are often represented by very few species even in undisturbed streams.

Other advantages of using benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages to monitor streams include:

  1. They are good indicators of local conditions because most benthic species are either sessile or have limited migration patterns through their aquatic phases.
  2. They exhibit wide variation in tolerance among species and life stages to environmental stresses.
  3. Many species have long life cycles relative to other groups which allows inference regarding temporal trends.
  4. Sampling benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages is relatively easy and inexpensive, and has minimal effects on resident biota.

In addition, because benthic macroinvertebrates have been by far the most commonly used group for biological monitoring of aquatic habitats in North America, a large suite of benthic macroinvertebrate summary metrics have been evaluated with respect to natural variation and responses to numerous sources of degradation.

Monitoring Objectives

  1. Document the status of and trends in the structure and composition of benthic macroinvertebrates.
  2. Determine trends in macroinvertebrate communities in relation to changes in water quality and quantity.

Network Park Units Monitored

Stonefly at Shenandoah National Park Stonefly at Shenandoah National Park

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Resource Briefs

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Monitoring Reports

This sampling protocol is currently under development.

For more information contact: David Demarest

Justification

Benthic macroinvertebrates are a vital component of all healthy stream ecosystems and advantages of using benthic macroinvertebrates assemblages to monitor streams include:

  1. They are good indicators of local conditions because most benthic species are either sessile or have limited migration patterns through their aquatic phases.
  2. They exhibit wide variation in tolerance among species and life stages to environmental stresses.
  3. Many species have long life cycles relative to other groups which allows inference regarding temporal trends.
  4. Sampling benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages is relatively easy and inexpensive, and has minimal effects on resident biota.

In addition, because benthic macroinvertebrates have been by far the most commonly used group for biological monitoring of aquatic habitats in North America, a large suite of benthic macroinvertebrate summary metrics have been evaluated with respect to natural variation and responses to numerous sources of degradation.

An independent review by scientists as well as a review by park managers indicated that, out of 43 potential vital signs that were assessed during vital sign development for Shenandoah, macroinvertebrate communities ranked as the number one most significant based on combined ecological, management, and policy interests.

Staff at this park have sampled benthic macroinvertebrates for 25 years, initially in response to gypsy moth defoliation. However, this data is also being used to monitor other impacts such as trail and road erosion, road salt contamination, wastewater treatment plant effluent, and acidification due to acid rain.

This long term data set has proven to be highly beneficial for establishing and assessing environmental monitoring thresholds (and baselines) and for characterizing the influence of sampling protocols on monitoring results. In the Blue Ridge section of the Mid-Atlantic Network, approximately 240 known taxa of benthic macroinvertebrates have been documented.

Monitoring Objectives

  1. Document the status of and trends in the structure and composition of benthic macroinvertebrates.
  2. Determine trends in macroinvertebrate communities in relation to changes in water quality and quantity.

Network Park Units Monitored

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster