European fish-based assessment reveals high diversity of systems for determining ecological status of lakes

David Ritterbusch, Petr Blabolil, Jan Breine, Tibor Eros, Thomas Mehner, Mikko Olin, Graeme Peirson, Pietro Volta, Sandra Poikane

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-article

Abstract

Triggered by the adoption of the Water Framework Directive, a variety of fish-based systems were developed throughout Europe to assess the ecological status of lakes. This paper provides a comprehensive overview of all existing systems and summarizes sampling methods, fish community traits (metrics) and the relevant anthropogenic pressures assessed by them. Twenty-one European countries developed fish-based assessment systems. Three countries each developed two distinct systems to approach different ecoregions, either to use different data, or to assess different lake types leading to a total number of 24 systems.

The most common approach for the setting of reference conditions, used in seventeen systems, was the utilisation of fish communities in comparably undisturbed natural lakes as reference. Eleven used expert judgment, nine historical data and eight modelled relationships. Fourteen systems combined at least two approaches.

The most common fish sampling method was a standardized fishing procedure with multimesh-gillnets. Many countries applied combinations of fishing methods, e.g. non-standard gillnets, fyke nets and electrofishing.

Altogether 177 metrics were used for index development and each system combined 2–13 metrics. The most common ones were total standardized catches of number and biomass, relative abundance of Perca fluviatilis, Rutilus rutilus, and Abramis brama, feeding preferences, sensitive species, and non-natives. The pressure-response-relationships for these metrics were supported with both correlations established during system development and scientific publications. However, the metrics and their combinations were highly diverse and no metric was applied universally.

Our analysis reveals that most fish-based assessment systems address multiple pressures (eutrophication, hydromorphological alterations, fishery pressure and occurrence of non-natives), whilst few are pressure-specific, tackling only eutrophication or acidification. We argue that the value of fish-based systems for lakes lies in their capacity to capture the effect of many different pressures and their interactions which is lacking for most assessment systems based on other biota.
Original languageEnglish
Article number149620
JournalScience of the total environment
ISSN0048-9697
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13-Aug-2021

Thematic List 2020

  • Water

Thematic list

  • Management
  • Environment

EWI Biomedical sciences

  • B003-ecology

Taxonomic list

  • fishes (Pisces)

Policy

  • Water Framework Directive

Geographic list

  • Europe

disciplinecodelist

  • Global ecology

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