Next Article in Journal
Technological Spaces in the Semi-Arid High Plains: Examining Well Ownership and Investment in Water-Saving Appliances
Next Article in Special Issue
A Proposal to Classify and Assess Ecological Status in Mediterranean Temporary Rivers: Research Insights to Solve Management Needs
Previous Article in Journal
Evolution of Salinity and Water Table Level of the Phreatic Coastal Aquifer of the Emilia Romagna Region (Italy)
Previous Article in Special Issue
Integration of DNA-Based Approaches in Aquatic Ecological Assessment Using Benthic Macroinvertebrates
Article Menu

Article Menu


The Biological Assessment and Rehabilitation of the World’s Rivers: An Overview

Department of Life Sciences, MARE-Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, University of Coimbra, 3000-456 Coimbra, Portugal
Amnis Opes Institute, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA
Department of Fisheries & Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
Laboratory of Ecology of Benthos, Department of Genetic, Ecology and Evolution, Institute of Biological Sciences, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Avenida Antônio Carlos 6627, CEP 31270-901 Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
Centre for Applied Water Science, Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, 2601 Canberra, Australia
Unilever Centre for Environmental Water Quality, Institute for Water Research, Rhodes University, P.O. Box 94, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
MARE—Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, University of Évora, 7000-812 Évora, Portugal
Department of Animal Biology, Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal
Department of Zoology, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity Centre for the Environment, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, College Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
Centro de Estudos Florestais, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal
Department of Biology and GeoBioTec—GeoBioSciences, GeoTechnologies and GeoEngineering Research Centre, University of Aveiro, Campus de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
Mexican Institute of Water Technology, Bioindicators Laboratory, Jiutepec Morelos 62550, Mexico
Department of Animal and Environmental Biology (Applied Hydrobiology Unit), Federal University of Technology, P.M.B. 65 Minna, Nigeria
School of Biologcal Sciences, University of Canterbury, 8140 Christchurch, New Zealand
Department of Civil Engineering, Daejin University, Hoguk-ro, Pocheon-si 1007, Gyeonggi-do, Korea
Pacific Ecological Systems Division, Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA
Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT), 283 Goyangdaero, Ilsanseo-gu, Goyang-si 10223, Gyeonggi-do, Korea
Key Laboratory of Yangtze River Water Environment, Ministry of Education of China, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, China
Department of Geography, Geomorphology and Water Resources Laboratory, Institute of Geosciences, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Avenida Antônio Carlos 6627, CEP 31270-901 Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
MED—Instituto Mediterrâneo para a Agricultura, Ambiente e Desenvolvimento, LabOr—Laboratório de Ornitologia, Universidade de Évora, Polo da Mitra, 7002-774 Évora, Portugal
Centro de Investigación en Biodiversidad y Conservacíon, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Cuernavaca, 62209 Morelos, Mexico
Environment and Climate Change Canada and, Canadian Rivers Institute, Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB E3B 5A3, Canada
Water Environment Research Group, Public Works Research Institute, 1-6 Minamihara, Tsukuba 305-8516, Japan
School of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, Karatina University, P.O. Box 1957, 10101 Karatina, Kenya
Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate, 2601 Canberra, Australia
Wetlands, Policy and Northern Water Use Branch, Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, 2601 Canberra, Australia
Acadia University, Canada Creek, Wolfville, NS B0P 1V0, Canada
Grupo de Investigación en Biodiversidad, Medio Ambiente y Salud (BIOMAS), Facultad de Ingenierías y Ciencias Aplicadas, Ingeniería Ambiental, Universidad de Las Américas, Vía Nayón S/N, 170503 Quito, Ecuador
Department of Geography, Western University and Canadian Rivers Institute, London, ON N6A 5C2, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Jan H. Janse
Water 2021, 13(3), 371;
Received: 9 December 2020 / Revised: 23 January 2021 / Accepted: 25 January 2021 / Published: 31 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future)
The biological assessment of rivers i.e., their assessment through use of aquatic assemblages, integrates the effects of multiple-stressors on these systems over time and is essential to evaluate ecosystem condition and establish recovery measures. It has been undertaken in many countries since the 1990s, but not globally. And where national or multi-national monitoring networks have gathered large amounts of data, the poor water body classifications have not necessarily resulted in the rehabilitation of rivers. Thus, here we aimed to identify major gaps in the biological assessment and rehabilitation of rivers worldwide by focusing on the best examples in Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North, Central, and South America. Our study showed that it is not possible so far to draw a world map of the ecological quality of rivers. Biological assessment of rivers and streams is only implemented officially nation-wide and regularly in the European Union, Japan, Republic of Korea, South Africa, and the USA. In Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand, and Singapore it has been implemented officially at the state/province level (in some cases using common protocols) or in major catchments or even only once at the national level to define reference conditions (Australia). In other cases, biological monitoring is driven by a specific problem, impact assessments, water licenses, or the need to rehabilitate a river or a river section (as in Brazil, South Korea, China, Canada, Japan, Australia). In some countries monitoring programs have only been explored by research teams mostly at the catchment or local level (e.g., Brazil, Mexico, Chile, China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam) or implemented by citizen science groups (e.g., Southern Africa, Gambia, East Africa, Australia, Brazil, Canada). The existing large-extent assessments show a striking loss of biodiversity in the last 2–3 decades in Japanese and New Zealand rivers (e.g., 42% and 70% of fish species threatened or endangered, respectively). A poor condition (below Good condition) exists in 25% of South Korean rivers, half of the European water bodies, and 44% of USA rivers, while in Australia 30% of the reaches sampled were significantly impaired in 2006. Regarding river rehabilitation, the greatest implementation has occurred in North America, Australia, Northern Europe, Japan, Singapore, and the Republic of Korea. Most rehabilitation measures have been related to improving water quality and river connectivity for fish or the improvement of riparian vegetation. The limited extent of most rehabilitation measures (i.e., not considering the entire catchment) often constrains the improvement of biological condition. Yet, many rehabilitation projects also lack pre-and/or post-monitoring of ecological condition, which prevents assessing the success and shortcomings of the recovery measures. Economic constraints are the most cited limitation for implementing monitoring programs and rehabilitation actions, followed by technical limitations, limited knowledge of the fauna and flora and their life-history traits (especially in Africa, South America and Mexico), and poor awareness by decision-makers. On the other hand, citizen involvement is recognized as key to the success and sustainability of rehabilitation projects. Thus, establishing rehabilitation needs, defining clear goals, tracking progress towards achieving them, and involving local populations and stakeholders are key recommendations for rehabilitation projects (Table 1). Large-extent and long-term monitoring programs are also essential to provide a realistic overview of the condition of rivers worldwide. Soon, the use of DNA biological samples and eDNA to investigate aquatic diversity could contribute to reducing costs and thus increase monitoring efforts and a more complete assessment of biodiversity. Finally, we propose developing transcontinental teams to elaborate and improve technical guidelines for implementing biological monitoring programs and river rehabilitation and establishing common financial and technical frameworks for managing international catchments. We also recommend providing such expert teams through the United Nations Environment Program to aid the extension of biomonitoring, bioassessment, and river rehabilitation knowledge globally. View Full-Text
Keywords: ecological status; freshwater; biological elements; restoration; reference conditions ecological status; freshwater; biological elements; restoration; reference conditions
Show Figures

Figure 1

MDPI and ACS Style

Feio, M.J.; Hughes, R.M.; Callisto, M.; Nichols, S.J.; Odume, O.N.; Quintella, B.R.; Kuemmerlen, M.; Aguiar, F.C.; Almeida, S.F.P.; Alonso-EguíaLis, P.; Arimoro, F.O.; Dyer, F.J.; Harding, J.S.; Jang, S.; Kaufmann, P.R.; Lee, S.; Li, J.; Macedo, D.R.; Mendes, A.; Mercado-Silva, N.; Monk, W.; Nakamura, K.; Ndiritu, G.G.; Ogden, R.; Peat, M.; Reynoldson, T.B.; Rios-Touma, B.; Segurado, P.; Yates, A.G. The Biological Assessment and Rehabilitation of the World’s Rivers: An Overview. Water 2021, 13, 371.

AMA Style

Feio MJ, Hughes RM, Callisto M, Nichols SJ, Odume ON, Quintella BR, Kuemmerlen M, Aguiar FC, Almeida SFP, Alonso-EguíaLis P, Arimoro FO, Dyer FJ, Harding JS, Jang S, Kaufmann PR, Lee S, Li J, Macedo DR, Mendes A, Mercado-Silva N, Monk W, Nakamura K, Ndiritu GG, Ogden R, Peat M, Reynoldson TB, Rios-Touma B, Segurado P, Yates AG. The Biological Assessment and Rehabilitation of the World’s Rivers: An Overview. Water. 2021; 13(3):371.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Feio, Maria J., Robert M. Hughes, Marcos Callisto, Susan J. Nichols, Oghenekaro N. Odume, Bernardo R. Quintella, Mathias Kuemmerlen, Francisca C. Aguiar, Salomé F.P. Almeida, Perla Alonso-EguíaLis, Francis O. Arimoro, Fiona J. Dyer, Jon S. Harding, Sukhwan Jang, Philip R. Kaufmann, Samhee Lee, Jianhua Li, Diego R. Macedo, Ana Mendes, Norman Mercado-Silva, Wendy Monk, Keigo Nakamura, George G. Ndiritu, Ralph Ogden, Michael Peat, Trefor B. Reynoldson, Blanca Rios-Touma, Pedro Segurado, and Adam G. Yates. 2021. "The Biological Assessment and Rehabilitation of the World’s Rivers: An Overview" Water 13, no. 3: 371.

Find Other Styles
Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Access Map by Country/Region

Back to TopTop