Invertebrates In Biomonitoring Of Pollution Biology Essay


Invertebrates are animals without backbones. They make up and account for almost 96% of all species of animals (Hyman, L. H. , 1940). Macro invertebrates generally populate lakes and streams where they are central in a role of transporting energy through many food networks also known widely as food webs. They are usually found at the bottom of lakes on sediments and have a fairly long life which makes them very easy to locate and study more than other more mobile organisms. Some Invertebrates have a particular water quality requirement for survival. These are generally known as pollutant sensitive species where if they are present in abundance, this would indicate good water quality (Coleman, 1997). Otherwise if only pollutant tolerant species are present it would indicate how fit the water is However, their application in a monitoring programme is at this time troubled by a lack of understanding of how they respond to environmental pressures (Alpine Lakes Network, 1998).

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Earlier in the century they were not used as widely, but as the years passed they were with time a more important tool for biological monitoring programmes in streams, lakes and rivers (Cairns and Pratt 1993; De Pauw. , 2006). Though they can be complicated to work with unless the appropriate study design is used (Rosenberg and Resh, 1993) now, macro invertebrates are one of the most frequently chosen groups of organisms for their use in biomonitoring (Resh, 2000) showing their use in biomonitoring programmes is well established (Rosenberg, 1993). Macro invertebrates demonstrate some sensitivity towards a range of aspects that are responsible for changes in water quality, plus another benefit is that they are less expensive to apply than chemical and physical study tools (Pontasch and Cairns, 1991).A key benefit of biomonitoring with benthic macro invertebrates is that it is possible to identify change in the quality of water at the specific times of sampling as well as change that occurred prior to sampling (Schwoerbel, 1999). This is because of the reasonably inactive day to day life and long livelihood of these organisms (Rosenberg and Resh, 1996).

This review discusses the research available on the ways in which macro invertebrates are used in the biological monitoring of pollution. It is generally on sources and impacts of various conditions on the communities in streams, lakes and rivers. The review can be a tool to put in perspective the results from many studies that sampled sediments at various stream sites and can also help reveal what methods of bio monitoring would be best for this particular organism. For this study I chose a selection of evaluations that comprise of water quality monitoring programmes, bio monitoring methods comparisons; these have been taken from Rhea, (2005), Resh, (1994) and a variety of other non published and published sources. Additionally, listings of the macro invertebrate programmes and biomonitoring methods chosen are illustrated in Table 1. Some research programmes have been studied in different parts of the world which may somewhat distort results, but will give an indication of how results vary in different sites for comparison. The accuracy and reliability of these results are not known as they are the work of other professionals with the expertise in this field of work.


The listings of the macro invertebrate programmes, bio monitoring methods and their habitat locations. The number codes are used in Table 2.




Stein, H., Springer, M., Kohlmann, B. (2007)

Comparison of two sampling methods for biomonitoring Aquatic macro invertebrates

Dos Novillos River, Costa Rica

Rhea (2005)

Biomonitoring in the Boulder River watershedMetal concentrations in Biofilms and Macro invertebrates and relations with Macro invertebrate assemblage

Montana, United states of America


Beasley, G. and Kneale, P.(2002)

The impact of Nickel on macro invertebrates



Beasley, G. and Kneale, P. (2002)

The impact of Copper on macro invertebrates



Collier, K.J. ; Ilcocka, R. J.; Meredith, A. S. (2010)

Influence of substrate type and physic -chemical conditions on macro invertebrate faunas

lowland Waikato, New Zealand, streams


Phiri, C.(2000)

An assessment of the health of two rivers , on the

basis of macro invertebrate community structure and selected physicochemical

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Harare, Zimbabwe


Balabanova, Biljana , Stafilov, Trajče , Bačeva, Katerina and Šajn, Robert(2010)

Bio monitoring of atmospheric pollution with heavy metals in the copper

mine vicinity

Radoviš, Republic of Macedonia


David J. Sharley , Ary A. Hoffmann, Vincent Pettigrove (2008)

Effects of sediment quality on macro invertebrates

Sunraysia region

of the Murray-Darling Rivers, Australia


Michael Soldner, Ian Stephen, Litay Ramos, Robert Angus, N. Claire Wells, Albania Grosso, Mark Crane (2003)

Relationship between macro invertebrate fauna and

environmental variables

Small streams of

the Dominican Republic

Bio monitoring of macro invertebrate communities that with particular emphasis on characterising taxonomic richness and composition, is the most sensitive tool now available for quickly and accurately detecting alterations in aquatic communities (Cairns & Pratt, 1993).

The works found are from across the globe in most continental regions including; Australasia, South America, North America, the United Kingdom, Africa and Europe. There are two works found in the Asian- Australasian region, they are in Australia and New Zealand. In the Sunraysia region of the Murray - Darling Rivers, Australia, a field-based microcosm approach was tested to discover weakening of sediment quality in waterways by means of freshwater macro invertebrates. It is a technique that can possibly recognise the character of pollutants derived from species-specific reactions (David J. Sharley, Ary A. Hoffmann, Vincent Pettigrove, 2008). However in Waikato, New Zealand, they measured physicochemical parameters and sampled macro invertebrate faunas on wood, macrophytes and inorganic substrates to study the causes that influence invertebrate allocation and abundance (Collier, K.J.; Ilcocka, R. J.; Meredith, A. S., 2010). The South American region also has two studies; Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Authors Stein, H., Springer, M. and Kohlmann, B., state that the central focus of their study was the testing and comparing of two varied collection methods to enable them to determine water quality and potential anthropogenic influence on the Dos Novillos river, Costa Rica. Relationship between macro invertebrate fauna and environmental variables is the study of Michael Soldner, Ian Stephen and their team in the Dominican Republic. This study identifies individual gradients along which benthic macro invertebrate assemblage structure changes within the Yaque Del Norte river basin.

Beasley, G. and Kneale, P reviewed research accessible on the sources and impacts of two heavy metals on macro invertebrate communities in a Yorkshire stream; these are copper and nickel. Copper and nickel are critical micro-nutrients, but also the most commonly detected metals in urban runoff (Marsalek, 1990). In their review most of the data obtainable on the ecological impact in streams from lab and field investigations are inconsistent and partial.

There is one work found from the European region in Radoviš, Republic of Macedonia. This investigation was carried out to determine the atmospheric pollution with heavy metals due to copper mining nearby (Balabanova, 2010). Different samples were used for bio monitoring the possible atmospheric pollution with heavy metals in mine vicinity (Balabanova, 2010).

The only study in North America, in The United States of America (USA), was based in Montana. It was conducted by Rhea, 2008 where they found that fractions of the Boulder River watershed enclosed high concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc in water, sediment, and biota. They measured the concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc in biofilms and macro invertebrates and then went on to assess macro invertebrate assemblages and aquatic habitation with the aim of monitoring intended remediation efforts (Rhea, 2008).

Lastly, Phiri, C. (2000) did an assessment on the health of two rivers, on the basis of macro invertebrate community structure and selected physicochemical variables in Harare, Zimbabwe. The main goal of the study was to measure and evaluate the quality of water in the Gwebi and Mukuvisi Rivers, on the foundation of particular physicochemical variables and structures of macro invertebrate communities. They selected five sites on the two rivers and then collected samples on three separate occasions between the winter and summer of January and July in 1998 (Phiri, C. 2000).


Taxon reported in all researchers studies.

*Tolerance levels with 1 being intolerant of pollutants to 10 being tolerant of some pollutants.



*Tolerance Levels based on family

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9

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Range from 2- 4

1, 6, 9


Range from 3 - 6




1, 6, 9



1, 5, 6, 9


Range from 4 -5

1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9


Range from 1 - 4

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9


Range from 7- 9

2, 3, 4, 5


Range from 0 - 2

*Tolerance levels were gathered from (Barbour, 1999; Bodeet, 1996, 2002; Hauer & Lamberti, 1996; Hilsenhoff, 1988; Plafkin, 1989)

Pollutants and the nature of pollutants have not been identified clearly in most of the researchers work as they were described as 'various environmental conditions'. However in Beasley and Kneale's work in Yorkshire, Balabanova's work in Macedonia and Rhea's work in Montana, United States of America, they have all studied the impact certain metals have upon macro invertebrates and their assemblages. Table 3 shows a study on the relationship of copper, zinc and their impact on macro invertebrates.



Copper Levels (μg l-1)

Nickel Levels (mg l-1)

Change in Abundance




- 68




- 12

Diptera - Chironimadae



+ 56




- 44

Source: Adapted from, Beasley and Kneale, 2002.

In the Earth's crust, Copper has an average concentration of 4. 5 mg kg-1 and is generally spread through oxides, carbonates, chlorides and sulphides (Mance, 1984).

Copper finds its way into aquatic environments through mining and other products. It is also a vital nutrient and as a result is present in human and animal wastes. It may be present in any natural water systems in a dissolved form or with inorganic ions or organic ligands such as carbonates, chlorides and humic acids, or as suspended sediment when in attendance as hydroxides, phosphates and sulphides or adsorbed by matter from particles. Although there is evidence that their is a serious threat from metal contaminants to stream ecology, the evidence also shows that research in the field is lacking clear identification of the sources of contamination within catchments, or the significance of sediments in storing these contaminants. The understanding of the reasons that are affecting the allocation and abundance is central for interpreting the results of these kinds of studies. This study and other works in progress demonstrate that the natural qualities of benthic macro invertebrates could be used as a dependable tool in biomonitoring and further.