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Australian River Assessment System (AusRivAS) Bioassessment: Macroinvertebrate

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Developer

Australian Government with State and Territory Governments through National Rivers Health Program

Latest documentation

2009

Designed for use in

Australia

Ongoing

Yes

Assessment purpose

Condition, Processes and components

Assessment criteria

Fauna

Method type

Field, desktop, laboratory assessment/analysis

Timescale

Medium-long term – The sampling protocol for Queensland requires a minimum of two sample sets in one year; in the early wet and in the late wet. Note there are additional protocols for the different states.

Scale

Landscape/Catchment, Region, Site/habitat

Wetland system

Riverine

Description and method logic

Method purpose

The purpose of the AusRivAS Bioassessment: Macroinvertebrate methodology is to use a standardised method to monitor and assess the ecological condition of Australia's rivers based on predicted macroinvertebrate numbers and tolerances.

AUSRIVAS models (predict the aquatic macroinvertebrate fauna expected to occur at a site in the absence of environmental stress, such as pollution or habitat degradation) have been developed for each state and territory, for the main habitat types that can be found in Australian river systems. The models can be constructed for a single season or data from several seasons may be combined to provide more robust predictions. To date, the AUSRIVAS predictive system has been developed primarily for lotic environments.

Summary

The AusRivAS (Australian River Assessment System) method uses in-stream biota to assess the ecological health of segments of rivers and streams. AUSRIVAS was developed at the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Freshwater Ecology in Canberra and is based on the British River InVertebrate Prediction And Classification System (RIVPACS) II program (Wright et al. 1993). AUSRIVAS consists of standardized sampling methods, computer software and mathematical models, which can be tailor made for use in different aquatic habitats and for different times of the year. These models predict the aquatic macroinvertebrate fauna expected to occur at a site in the absence of environmental stress, such as pollution or habitat degradation. The AUSRIVAS predictive system and associated sampling methods offer a number of advantages over traditional assessment techniques. The sampling methods are standardized, easy to perform and require minimal equipment. Rapid turn around of results is possible and the range of outputs from the AUSRIVAS models are tailored for a range of users including community groups, managers and ecologists.

AUSRIVAS models have been developed for each state and territory, for the main habitat types that can be found in Australian river systems. These habitats include the edge/backwater, main channel, riffle, pool and macrophyte stands. The models can be constructed for a single season or data from several seasons may be combined to provide more robust predictions. To date, the AUSRIVAS predictive system has been developed primarily for lotic environments. Future research and development of the AUSRIVAS system is aimed at widening its scope for use in estuarine and wetland environments.

Method logic

The structure of plant and animal communities can give an accurate picture of the condition or health of waterways. AusRivAS utilises rapid sampling techniques for the development of predictive models for macroinvertebrate communities within each state/territory, using a 'reference' site database. Comparisons can be made between predicted and observed taxonomic compositions of macroinvertebrate communities in different habitats (habitats include the edge/backwater, main channel, riffle, pool and macrophyte stands) at a site in order to indicate the presence and magnitude of an impact on the site's ecological health. Biological responses to changes in water quality and/or habitat condition in rivers can be assessed. The system can be integrated with the existing network of physico-chemical water quality monitoring.

The physical assessment protocol associated with AusRivAS is described separately.

Criteria groupings of the method

Macroinvertebrate families: observed / expected family numbers and tolerances.

Data required

Site description, macroinvertebrate samples, habitat assessment data, reach observations including longitudinal and cross sectional profile sketches. See Macroinvertebrates Bioassessment: Qld Manual and Datasheets

Resources required

Expertise required

Macroinvertebrate Bioassessment TRAINING AND ACCREDITATION

Materials required

Field sheets, dedicated database, macroinvertebrate sampling, water quality sampling and habitat assessment equipment, access to a laboratory for macroinvertebrate sample processing and to the AusRivAS model.

Method outputs

Outputs

For each test site:
  • Observed /Expected FAMILIES (an index incorporating the number of observed families to the number of expected families)
  • Observed /Expected SIGNAL (an index which incorporates the tolerances of different macroinvertebrate  families to common types of water pollution)
  • Band for each index which compares the index value at a test site to the reference condition.

Uses

  • To assess the effectiveness of current management practices affecting rivers.
  • To provide better ecological data on which to base management decisions.
  • Impact assessments, licence conditions and monitoring.
  • Condition and trend reporting
  • Biodiversity and biogeographic studies.
  • Catchment planning and management.
  • Community based baseline monitoring, monitoring performance of rehabilitation works.

Criteria by category

    Fauna

    • Occurrence of macroinvertebrate families
      • Observed /Expected FAMILIES (ratio of recorded number of families of macroinvertebrates to number of expected
      • Observed /Expected SIGNAL (ratio of observed SIGNAL value to expected SIGNAL value)

Review

Recommended user

The results are useful for catchment managers, natural resource managers, community groups and government agencies.

Strengths

  • Allows direct temporal and spatial comparisons of data
  • macroinvertebrate integrate impacts into a snapshot of ecosystem health
  • Quality assurance is achieved through training and accreditation.

Limitations

  • Other methods may be more appropriate for small scale and specific issues
  • Problems occur associated with the standard protocols where less than 100 animals are collected from a sample, at least for certain habitat types in turbid conditions
  • Direct correllation of invertebrates with disturbance including water quality is not always possible
  • Differences in speices within macroinvertebrate families can often reflect different tolerances that might not be fully recognised
  • High costs associated with sampling.

Case studies

Macroinvertebrates Bioassessment: Qld Manual and Datasheets

AusRivAS: Macroinvertebrate response in streams and rivers of the wet – dry tropics, NT

Leight, C (2012), Macroinvertebrate responses to dry season and antecedent flow in highly seasonal streams and rivers of the wet – dry tropics, Northern Territory. [online], Australian Rivers Institute, National Water Commission, Canberra. Available at: https://research-repository.griffith.edu.au/handle/10072/48436.

AusRivAS: Santos Coal Seam Gas Fields Aquatic Ecology Impact Assessment

Jones, C, Napier-Munn, T, Olds, A, Thorburn, L, Thorogood, J & Walker, S (2009), Santos Coal Seam Gas Fields: Aquatic Ecology Impact Assessment. [online], FRC Environmental, Brisbane. Available at: http://eisdocs.dsdip.qld.gov.au/Gladstone%20Liquefied%20Natural%20Gas/EIS/EIS%20Jun%2009/n4-aquatic-flora-and-fauna.pdf.

Link to case studies for other states

Links


References

  1. Chessman, BC (1995), 'Rapid assessment of rivers using macroinvertebrates: A procedure based on habitat-specific sampling, family level identification and a biotic index.', Australian journal of ecology. [online], vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 122-122-129. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1442-9993.1995.tb00526.x.
  2. Wright, JF, Furse, MT, Armitage, PD & Moss, D (1993), 'New procedures for identifying running-water sites subject to environmental stress and for evaluating sites for conservation, based on the macroinvertebrate fauna. .', Archiv für Hydrobiologi, vol. 127, no. 3, pp. 319-319-326.

Last updated: 7 February 2019

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2019) Australian River Assessment System (AusRivAS) Bioassessment: Macroinvertebrate, WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 May 2021. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/resources/tools/assessment-search-tool/australian-river-assessment-system-ausrivas-bioassessment-macroinvertebrate/

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science