Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 351–364 | Cite as

Biological quality of running waters in protected areas: the influence of size and land use

  • Laura Mancini
  • Paolo Formichetti
  • Antonella Anselmo
  • Lorenzo Tancioni
  • Silvia Marchini
  • Alberto Sorace


There are still substantial questions about whether protected areas affect the quality and biodiversity of surface waters within their borders. In this study, the size and land use of 19 protected areas of Latium Region (central Italy) were related to the biological quality of 32 streams running inside them. Additionally, the biological quality of 18 out of the 32 streams was compared with the quality recorded on the same streams outside the boundaries of the protected areas. The biological quality was assessed using the Extended Biotic Index, which indicates the macroinvertebrate community health. The quality of 32 study streams running through the protected areas was not related to the size of these areas, but it did reflect land use. On average, the 18 study sites inside protected areas had biological quality similar to external control sites. In the protected areas, the biological quality of streams was higher than for the same streams in the surrounding territory provided that anthropogenic changes were fewer. These data indicate that the creation of protected areas per se does not increase freshwater biodiversity and that land use has a major impact on the biological quality of the stream in a protected area. As a consequence, a higher number of reserves or landscape designations specifically created for aquatic conservation is necessary and recovery programs aimed at restoring physical habitats and reducing sources of impact to aquatic life have to be pursued. Also, where the anthropogenic impact is high (e.g., as in the case of strongly urbanised areas), the creation of effective protected areas might improve the biological quality of water courses.

Biological quality Biotic index Freshwaters Land use Protected areas 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Mancini
    • 1
  • Paolo Formichetti
    • 1
  • Antonella Anselmo
    • 1
  • Lorenzo Tancioni
    • 2
  • Silvia Marchini
    • 1
  • Alberto Sorace
    • 1
    • 1
  1. 1.National Institute of HealthRomeItaly
  2. 2.Laboratory of Experimental Ecology and Aquaculture, Biology DepartmentUniversity of Rome ‘Torvergata’, via della Ricerca Scientifica sncRomeItaly

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