Special Issue "The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Quality and Contamination".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 October 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Maria João Feio
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
MARE—Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Department of Life Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Technology, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
Interests: environmental impact assessment; freshwater biology; environment protection; community structure; ecological monitoring; benthic ecology; functional ecology; urban aquatic ecosystems; restoration
Dr. Joao M. Neto
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
MARE—Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Department of Life Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Technology, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
Interests: water quality; ecology; biodiversity and conservation; marine ecology; environmental science; climate change; environment; ecosystem ecology; rivers; biodiversity

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The 20th century brought an exponential increase in bioassessment methods for rivers and estuaries. In Europe, bioassessment methods and classification systems were improved by the publication of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which also led to the investigation of new biological and more complex indices. As the WFD influenced the development of new methods across the world, European tools were also influenced by methods developed in the USA, Canada, and other parts of the world. In Europe, this progress resulted in the need for an intercalibration process to compare assessments of water bodies. Yet, development of assessment tools for rivers/estuaries and their implementation in national monitoring programs is far from being a reality across the world, even in temperate regions, but specifically in tropical or dry climates. It is not clear how unsatisfactory classifications of rivers/estuaries have led to restoration and mitigation measures and to the improvement in water bodies. Official monitoring programs are still mostly based on structural aspects of communities, i.e., in the taxonomic composition and abundance, whereas the functional assessments are not conducted. Finally, the last years have witnessed an impressive effort to find tools based on molecular data (DNA, eDNA) with the aim of reducing costs and time and obtaining more complete overviews of the ecosystems, including rare or cryptic species that could be neglected by morphological evaluations. All these aspects are included within the scope of this Special Issue.

Dr. Maria João Feio
Dr. Joao M. Neto
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • bioassessment
  • freshwaters
  • transitional waters
  • functional assessment
  • tools
  • aquatic communities
  • indicator species
  • molecular
  • eDNA
  • tropical
  • temperate
  • arid

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
Variations in Benthic Macroinvertebrate Communities and Biological Quality in the Aguarico and Coca River Basins in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Water 2021, 13(12), 1692; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13121692 - 18 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1407
Abstract
Adequate environmental management in tropical aquatic ecosystems is imperative. Given the lack of knowledge about functional diversity and bioassessment programs, management is missing the needed evidence on pollution and its effect on biodiversity and functional ecology. Therefore, we investigated the composition and distribution [...] Read more.
Adequate environmental management in tropical aquatic ecosystems is imperative. Given the lack of knowledge about functional diversity and bioassessment programs, management is missing the needed evidence on pollution and its effect on biodiversity and functional ecology. Therefore, we investigated the composition and distribution of the macroinvertebrate community along two rivers. Specifically, 15 locations were sampled in the Coca and Aguarico Rivers (Ecuadorian Amazon) and the macroinvertebrates were used to indicate water quality (WQ), expressed as the Biological Monitoring Working Party Colombia (BMWP-Col) classes. Results indicate that elevation, pH, temperature, width, and water depth played an important role in the taxa and functional feeding groups (FFG) composition. The results show that diversity of taxa and FFG were generally scarce but were more abundant in good quality sites. Collector-gathers (CG) were, in general, dominant and were particularly abundant at low WQ and downstream sites. Scrapers (SC) were the second most abundant group, dominating mostly at good WQ and upstream sites. Predators (PR) were homogeneously distributed among the sites, without clear dominance, and their abundance was slightly higher in sites with medium-low WQ and downstream sites. Lastly, both shredders (SH) and collector-filterers (CF) were almost absent and were more abundant in good quality sites. The findings of this research can be used as baseline information in the studied region since a dam was constructed two years after the sampling campaign, which has been operating since. Furthermore, the results can be used to fill the knowledge gaps related to the bioassessments of other similar systems, particularly for a tropical rainforest. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future)
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Article
A Proposal to Classify and Assess Ecological Status in Mediterranean Temporary Rivers: Research Insights to Solve Management Needs
Water 2021, 13(6), 767; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13060767 - 11 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 936
Abstract
The biomonitoring methods implemented by water authorities are mostly developed for perennial rivers, and do not apply to temporary rivers (TRs). We propose a new classification for TRs to better assess their ecological status. It arises from the LIFE+ TRivers project, which was [...] Read more.
The biomonitoring methods implemented by water authorities are mostly developed for perennial rivers, and do not apply to temporary rivers (TRs). We propose a new classification for TRs to better assess their ecological status. It arises from the LIFE+ TRivers project, which was conducted in the Catalan and the Júcar Mediterranean river basin districts (RBD). The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) provided two systems to set river types (systems A or B from Annex II), which have been officially used by water authorities across Europe to set “national river types” (NRTs). However, essential hydrological variables for TRs are largely omitted. NRTs established according to the WFD were compared with TR categories obtained by using a rainfall-runoff model, “natural flows prescribed regimes” (NFPRs), and with “aquatic phases regimes” (APRs) calculated by using TREHS software. The biological quality indices currently used in Spain, based on macroinvertebrates and diatoms (IBMWP, IMMI-T, and IPS), were compared with a “general degradation” gradient in order to analyze the two TR river classification procedures (NFPR and APR). The results showed that NRTs did not properly classify TRs, and that the APR classification identified ecologically meaningful categories, especially those related to stagnant phases. Four “management temporary river categories” based on APRs are proposed to be used for water managers to properly assess the ecological status of TRs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future)
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Article
Seasonal Distributions of Phytoplankton and Environmental Factors Generate Algal Blooms in the Taehwa River, South Korea
Water 2020, 12(12), 3329; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12123329 - 26 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 798
Abstract
Algal blooms have occurred in the Taehwa River estuary in South Korea despite the improvement of water quality since environmental renewal projects in the 1990s. In this study, we investigated the causes of algal blooms by measuring the water retention time using a [...] Read more.
Algal blooms have occurred in the Taehwa River estuary in South Korea despite the improvement of water quality since environmental renewal projects in the 1990s. In this study, we investigated the causes of algal blooms by measuring the water retention time using a floating buoy, water quality parameters, and phytoplankton distribution data from 2012. An algal bloom did not occur in February because of phosphate limitations in the Taehwa River estuary; however, the concentration of nutrients in the water inflow from the basin triggered a significant algal bloom in the upper estuary in the month of May. In this regard, the phytoplankton population was dominated by nano- and pico-sized flagellates. In August, the freshwater inflow into the estuary greatly increased due to heavy rainfall, resulting in a shorter retention time of the water bodies, which seemed to prevent an algal bloom. In November, a bloom of Cryptophyceae occurred at one of the sites (the U2 site) due to sufficient nutrients in the water and the long retention times of the water bodies. Our results indicate that a decrease in the nutrients (N and P) supplied from the basin is required for a reduction in algal blooms in the Taehwa River estuary. Additional studies are needed to further elucidate the effects of the land-based, nutrient-rich pollutants flowing into the Taehwa River estuary on algal bloom generation considering the fact that the streams have different environmental characteristics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future)
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Article
The Effect of Monsoon Rainfall Patterns on Epilithic Diatom Communities in the Hantangang River, Korea
Water 2020, 12(5), 1471; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12051471 - 21 May 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 861
Abstract
Most of Korea’s rivers and lakes are subject to physico-chemical disturbances, such as increased water quantity and flow rates, and influx of nitrogen and phosphorus, due to intense rainfall concentrated in the Asian monsoon season. To examine the influence of rainfall on epilithic [...] Read more.
Most of Korea’s rivers and lakes are subject to physico-chemical disturbances, such as increased water quantity and flow rates, and influx of nitrogen and phosphorus, due to intense rainfall concentrated in the Asian monsoon season. To examine the influence of rainfall on epilithic diatom communities, we measured the diatom distribution and river water quality at 29 sites along the main-stream and tributaries of the Hantangang River, Korea, in the period of 2012–2015. Water quality parameters in the polluted sites had improved following rainfall, but the response of dominant species varied with water quality; the dominant species Nitzschia fonticola decreased in abundance regardless of sampling sites, and the abundance of Achnanthidium minutissimum in the clean sites and Nitzschia palea in the polluted sites increased after rainfall, respectively. The community dynamic index (CDI) showed that the most obvious shift of epilithic diatom community occurred in the mid-polluted sites in 2013 with the highest rainfall. This suggest that the effect of rainfalls on the epilithic diatom community is dependent on various parameters, such as the magnitude of rainfall, water quality and its biotic compositions of diatom communities, but it also indicates that improving the water quality of rivers is important to promote the resilience of diatom communities to extremes of precipitation. Further investigation is needed to generalize the effects of monsoon rainfall on the epilithic diatom communities, considering rivers with different environmental characteristics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future)
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Review

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Review
How to Improve the Biological Quality of Urban Streams? Reviewing the Effect of Hydromorphological Alterations and Rehabilitation Measures on Benthic Invertebrates
Water 2021, 13(15), 2087; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13152087 - 30 Jul 2021
Viewed by 500
Abstract
Urbanisation alters the natural hydromorphology of streams, affecting aquatic communities and ecological quality. Increasing efforts have been put into the rehabilitation of urban streams due to their importance for urban sustainability. Despite these efforts, many projects fail to achieve the improvement of aquatic [...] Read more.
Urbanisation alters the natural hydromorphology of streams, affecting aquatic communities and ecological quality. Increasing efforts have been put into the rehabilitation of urban streams due to their importance for urban sustainability. Despite these efforts, many projects fail to achieve the improvement of aquatic communities. This study aims to provide specific recommendations to enhance the biological rehabilitation of urban streams by reviewing: (i) the impacts of urbanisation and climate change on urban stream hydrology, (ii) the responses of invertebrate assemblages to alterations in the hydrology and morphology of streams, and (iii) the hydromorphological rehabilitation measures applied to streams and their effect on invertebrate communities. This review found that commonly employed measures of habitat heterogeneity enhancement (such as the addition of meanders, boulders, and artificial riffles) are not enough to improve invertebrate communities. On the other hand, the most effective measures are those leading to the re-establishment of natural hydrological patterns and good water quality. Ultimately, an integrated ecohydrological approach that considers the entire watershed and its interactions between ecosystems and anthropological activities is the key to managing and rehabilitating urban streams. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future)
Review
The Biological Assessment and Rehabilitation of the World’s Rivers: An Overview
Water 2021, 13(3), 371; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13030371 - 31 Jan 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 6078
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future)
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Review
Integration of DNA-Based Approaches in Aquatic Ecological Assessment Using Benthic Macroinvertebrates
Water 2021, 13(3), 331; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13030331 - 29 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 990
Abstract
Benthic macroinvertebrates are among the most used biological quality elements for assessing the condition of all types of aquatic ecosystems worldwide (i.e., fresh water, transitional, and marine). Current morphology-based assessments have several limitations that may be circumvented by using DNA-based approaches. Here, we [...] Read more.
Benthic macroinvertebrates are among the most used biological quality elements for assessing the condition of all types of aquatic ecosystems worldwide (i.e., fresh water, transitional, and marine). Current morphology-based assessments have several limitations that may be circumvented by using DNA-based approaches. Here, we present a comprehensive review of 90 publications on the use of DNA metabarcoding of benthic macroinvertebrates in aquatic ecosystems bioassessments. Metabarcoding of bulk macrozoobenthos has been preferentially used in fresh waters, whereas in marine waters, environmental DNA (eDNA) from sediment and bulk communities from deployed artificial structures has been favored. DNA extraction has been done predominantly through commercial kits, and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) has been, by far, the most used marker, occasionally combined with others, namely, the 18S rRNA gene. Current limitations include the lack of standardized protocols and broad-coverage primers, the incompleteness of reference libraries, and the inability to reliably extrapolate abundance data. In addition, morphology versus DNA benchmarking of ecological status and biotic indexes are required to allow general worldwide implementation and higher end-user confidence. The increased sensitivity, high throughput, and faster execution of DNA metabarcoding can provide much higher spatial and temporal data resolution on aquatic ecological status, thereby being more responsive to immediate management needs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future)
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Review
Organic Matter Decomposition and Ecosystem Metabolism as Tools to Assess the Functional Integrity of Streams and Rivers–A Systematic Review
Water 2020, 12(12), 3523; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12123523 - 15 Dec 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1961
Abstract
Streams and rivers provide important services to humans, and therefore, their ecological integrity should be a societal goal. Although ecological integrity encompasses structural and functional integrity, stream bioassessment rarely considers ecosystem functioning. Organic matter decomposition and ecosystem metabolism are prime candidate indicators of [...] Read more.
Streams and rivers provide important services to humans, and therefore, their ecological integrity should be a societal goal. Although ecological integrity encompasses structural and functional integrity, stream bioassessment rarely considers ecosystem functioning. Organic matter decomposition and ecosystem metabolism are prime candidate indicators of stream functional integrity, and here we review each of these functions, the methods used for their determination, and their strengths and limitations for bioassessment. We also provide a systematic review of studies that have addressed organic matter decomposition (88 studies) and ecosystem metabolism (50 studies) for stream bioassessment since the year 2000. Most studies were conducted in temperate regions. Bioassessment based on organic matter decomposition mostly used leaf litter in coarse-mesh bags, but fine-mesh bags were also common, and cotton strips and wood were frequent in New Zealand. Ecosystem metabolism was most often based on the open-channel method and used a single-station approach. Organic matter decomposition and ecosystem metabolism performed well at detecting environmental change (≈75% studies), with performances varying between 50 and 100% depending on the type of environmental change; both functions were sensitive to restoration practices in 100% of the studies examined. Finally, we provide examples where functional tools are used to complement the assessments of stream ecological integrity. With this review, we hope to facilitate the widespread incorporation of ecosystem processes into bioassessment programs with the broader aim of more effectively managing stream and river ecosystems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ecological Assessment of Rivers and Estuaries: Present and Future)
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