An index of biotic integrity characterizing fish populations and the ecological quality of Flandrian water bodies

Claude Belpaire, R Smolders, I Vanden Auweele, D Ercken, Jan Breine, Gerlinde Van Thuyne, F. P Ollevier

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    A multimetric fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) was composed to assess the biotic integrity of Flandrian water bodies. As fish communities differ substantially between standing waters, running waters of the bream zone and running waters of the barbel zone, eight candidate metrics for each of these water types or zones were identified, representing three major classes of biological attributes. These are species richness and composition, fish condition and abundance, trophic composition. The metrics were tested and modified where needed. The IBI was applied throughout Flanders on 104 locations in standing waters, 500 locations in waters of the bream zone and 257 locations in waters of the barbel zone. Standing waters scored substantially different from running waters. Standing waters rarely contained no fish at all, but their fish communities were very often poor to very poor. Waters of the bream and barbel zone were often fishless (respectively 40% and 35% of all locations contain no fish), but the locations with fish usually scored reasonable to poor. Only 18.5% of all locations were classified as reasonable to excellent (IBI classes 4 or lower on a scale from 1 to 9) and were considered to satisfy the basic ecological quality demands. The Leie-, Dijle-, Dender- and Schelde-basins had a very poor quality (more than 50% of the locations contained no fish). The Maas-, Grote and Kleine Nete-basins scored rather well, with respectively, 44%, 48% and 68% of the locations achieving an IBI of 4 or lower. The IBI is a valuable and complementary tool to assess the ecological quality of water bodies as suggested in the proposal for a Water Framework Directive by the European Commission.
    Original languageEnglish
    Issue number1-3
    Pages (from-to)17-33
    Number of pages17
    Publication statusPublished - 2000

    Thematic list

    • Policy
    • Water Framework Directive
    • Monitoring networks
    • Fish
    • Pollution

    EWI Biomedical sciences

    • B003-ecology
    • fish-based index
    • B280-animal-ecology

    Taxonomic list

    • fishes (Pisces)


    • Water Framework Directive
    • monitoring network for policy support

    Geographic list

    • Flanders


    • fisheries technology


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