AQEM Development and Testing of an Integrated Assessment System for the Ecological Quality of Streams and Rivers Throughout Europe Using Benthic Macroinvertebrates

Country: EU Projects
Start Date:           Duration:          Project Type: RTD
Contract Number: EVK1-CT-1999-00027
Organisation Type:  EC Project
Contaminated land-->Risk assessment-->Receptor: Ecological
Groundwater protection-->Groundwater protection overview
Groundwater protection-->Monitoring-->Sampling techniques
Groundwater protection-->Planning-->Modelling
Soil-->Soil Overview
Water and sanitation-->Water and sanitation Overview
Water resources and their management -->Water resources and their management Overview
Project objectives:
The assessment system developed by the AQEM project supports the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive and provides a tools for assessing ecological 
quality in European streams with benthic macroinvertebrates.
Project Summary:
The AQEM system    
1. classifies a stream stretch in a quality class from 5 (high) to 1 (bad)    
2. gives information about the cause of a possible degradation.     
As demanded by the Water Framework Directive AQEM applies a stream type-specific approach. Particularly at the European scale this is inevitable, since 
e.g. a highland stream in Sweden and a lowland stream in Italy are inhabited by very different macroinvertebrate communities. Therefore, for each stream type
different calculation methods are applied based on the comparison with different reference conditions. However, the system always follows the same evaluation
scheme and each stream-type specific method fits into the general assessment framework. This framework can be defined as follows: Stressor-specific approach; for each stream type the 'main' degradation factor presently affecting the stream is assessed. This might be acidification
(e.g. in Northern Sweden), degradation in stream morphology (e.g. in Central Europe) or organic pollution (e.g. in Southern Europe). In some cases more than
one stressor is separately assessed and the results of the individual steps are then combined to a final assessment result or the assessment is addressing the
'general degradation'. Multimetric system; for each stream type those calculation methods have been identified, which are best at indicating a sites' state of degradation. The
results of the individual calculation methods are then combined in a 'multimetric formula', which is always the same. The multimetric result is converted into the final score ranging from 5 (high quality) to 1 (bad quality).
Achieved Objectives:
The AQEM project developed an assessment system (AQEM Assessment System, AAS) for streams in eight European countries based on benthic macroinvertebrates, 
which fulfils the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive. The AAS system classifies a stream stretch into an Ecological Quality Class from 5 (high)
to 1 (bad) based on a macroinvertebrate taxa list, which has been obtained from sampling the stretch using a harmonised method. Furthermore, AAS gives information
about the possible causes of degradation. Based on a stressor-specific approach, for several stream types the main degradation factor presently affecting
the stream can be assessed. For each stream type those calculation methods have been identified, which indicate a site’s state of degradation best. The results
of the individual calculation methods are then combined in a multimetric formula. Converted into a final score ranging from 5 (high quality) to 1 (bad quality)
the multimetric methodology allows the definition of classes representing a gradient from degraded to reference or best-available stream quality
Product Descriptions:
The AAS provides a scientifically sound assessment method for 28 European stream types, which can be used as a tool to implement the Water Framework Directive. 
Though there are necessarily differences between the methods to assess different stream types, the assessment framework is always the same and the same tools
(PC program, taxa list, taxa scores and manual) are applied for all stream types. The applicability of the developed system is ensured by: 1. The AQEM European stream assessment program, which performs all calculations necessary for applying the AQEM system. It includes the calculation of
the Eco-logical Quality Class of a sampling site, based on a macroinvertebrate taxa list, by performing stream-type specific calculations, and a large number
of additional metrics, which are helpful for data interpretation. 2. The AQEM taxa database, which contains more than 9,500 European macroinvertebrate taxa and their autecological specifications, which are necessary
to perform the calculations. 3. The AQEM manual, which describes the whole AQEM procedure, individually the selection of suited sampling sites, the recording of abiotic data, the field
and lab procedures of taking macroinvertebrate samples, the identification, the handling of the data, the use of the AQEM software and the interpretation
of the results. AQEM available resources 1. Ecological quality assessment calculation tool Product: software, guideline 2. European macroinvertebrate taxalist Product: database
Additional Information:

Project Resources:

Konzepte zur Bewertung von Tieflandfließgewässern

Vorschlag zur Standardisierung fließgewässerökologischer Untersuchungen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Proben-nahme und Taxaliste

Bewertung von Bächen und Flüssen mit silikatisch geprägtem Einzugsgebiet.

Vorschläge zur Indikation des „ökologischen Zustandes

Multimetrische Methoden zur Charakterisierung des ökologischen Zustandes österreichischer Fließgewässer gemäß EU-Wasserrahmenrichtlinie

Entwicklung saprobieller Leitbilder als Beitrag zur Revision des Saprobiensystems und einer typspezifischen Fließgewässerbewertung vor dem Hintergrund der EU-Wasserrahmenrichtlinie

Top down - bottom up-Konzept einer biozönotisch begründeten Fließgewässertypologie Deutschlands

Aquatische Bioregionen - Beispiele zur räumlichen Gliederung der österreichischen Fließgewässerlandschaften auf Basis makrozoobenthischer Zönosen.

AQEM Publication P16

The development and testing of an integrated assessment system for the ecological quality of streams and rivers throughout Europe using benthic macroinvertebrates (AQEM)

(in press): Verfahren zur Anpassung des Saprobiensystems an die Vorgaben der EU-Wasserrahmenrichtlinie in Österreich

Vyvoj a testovani evropskeho systemu hodnoceni ekologickeho stavu toku podle makrozoobentosu. (The Development and Testing of an Integrated Assessment System for the Ecological Quality of Streams and Rivers throughout Europe using Benthic Macroinvertebrates).-

Stream assessment methods, stream typology approaches and outlines of a European stream typology

Reference biocoenoses and deviations: structure and tools for description

Experiences with different stream assessment methods and outlines of an integrated method for assessing streams using benthic macroinvertebrates

The development of a system to assess the ecological quality of streams based on macroinvertebrates - design of the sampling programme within the AQEM project

Manual for the Application of the AQEM System: A Comprehensive Method to Assess European Streams Using Benthic Macroinvertebrates, Developed for the Purpose of the Water Framework Directive

The AQEM river assessment program ASTERICS: A calculation program designed to assess the Ecological Quality of stream types in European countries based on macroinvertebrate taxa lists

A Europe-wide system for assessing the quality of rivers using macroinvertebrates: the AQEM project and its importance for Southern Europe (with special emphasis on Italy)

Biozönotische Bewertung der ökologischen Qualität am Beispiel norddeutscher Tieflandfließgewässer.

Feeding types and zonation characteristics of the aquatic benthic fauna in some streams at Macedonia, Greece

Untersuchungen zum Temperaturhaushalt zweier Fließgewässertypen im Mittelgebirge database

AQEM (The Development and Testing of an Integrated Assessment System for the Ecological Quality of Streams and Rivers throughout Europe using Benthic Macroinvertebrates): Assessment Software and Manual Download

The Development and Testing of an Integrated Assessment System for the Ecological Quality of Streams and Rivers throughout Europe using Benthic Macroinvertebrates: AQEM: Taxa Database
Funding Programme(s): 
EC Framework Programme 5
Link to Organisations:

Bayrisches Staatsministerium für Umwelt
Submitted by: EUGRIS Team Prof Paul Bardos  Who does what?  03/07/2003 17:48:00
Updated by: EUGRIS Team Professor Paul Bardos  Who does what?  28/09/2006 21:35:00