, Volume 551, Issue 1, pp 253–271 | Cite as

Characterization, Ecological Status and Type-specific Reference Conditions of Surface Water Bodies in Wallonia (Belgium) using Biocenotic Metrics based on Benthic Invertebrate Communities

  • Jean-Pierre Vanden Bossche
  • Philippe Usseglio-Polatera


The river types in Wallonia (Belgium) were defined according to the system B of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) taking into account obligatory and optional factors synthesized in three criteria: ‘size’, ‘slope’ and ‘natural region’. Under the hypothesis that benthic invertebrate assemblages would be specialized according to river type, a set of 627 faunal samples originating from an 11-year sampling period was tested to characterize river types with faunal assemblages.

A multivariate approach led to gather 23 river types into seven groups exhibiting similar faunal assemblages.

Using biocenotic metrics based on benthic invertebrate assemblages (e.g., the French standard IBGN), type-specific reference conditions and ecological status class limits were defined for each ‘natural’ river type group. Ecological potential was defined for heavily modified and for artificial (i.e., man-made canals) types.

An ‘ecological status’ evaluation strategy was therefore developed and applied in the southern – and more natural – part of Wallonia, where many reference sites were available. In the northern part of Wallonia (i.e., the ‘Loess region’) where no high quality site was available, the expert judgement took a larger part in the definition of the reference conditions and of the ecological status class limits, in addition to the calculations. Two independent distribution gradients of taxa assemblages resulted from multivariate ordination: a first ‘saprobity axis’, as the taxa-sensitivity to organic contamination was increasing from ‘very resistant’ taxa (mainly located in the ‘Loess region’) to ‘sensitive’ and ‘very sensitive’ taxa (from the river types belonging to the Condroz, the Famenne, the Arden and the Jurassic regions) and a second axis characterizing the Meuse-specific faunal assemblage, gathering exotic species and typical limnophilous taxa of large heavily modified rivers. The ecological status monitoring management system developed in this study – i.e., the definition of faunal river type groups, related reference conditions and ecological status class limits – represents a proposal to be integrated in the ecological status assessment of biological elements for the implementation of the WFD and was tested in Wallonia. For the period 2000–2002 involving 349 different sites, the element ‘benthic invertebrate fauna’ was in that way classified ‘high status’ for 31.5% of sites, ‘good status’ for 31.5% and below ‘good status’ for 37% of sites. The best ecological status (i.e., 100% ‘high’ and ‘good’ status) was found in river type ‘Arden’s xenotrophic brooks with strong slope’ and in river types 8large rivers with medium slope’. The worst status was found in river types ‘Loess brooks and rivers with medium slope’.

Key words

biological assessment ecological status macro-invertebrates reference condition rivers 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agence de l’Eau Rhône-Méditerranée-Corse, 1997. Indice biologique global adapté aux grands cours d’eau et aux rivières profondes I.B.G.A. Protocole expérimental. Cabinet Gay Environnement, Agence de l’Eau Rhône-Méditerranée-Corse, 45 ppGoogle Scholar
  2. Agences de l’Eau, 1995. Indice biologique global normalisé IBGN. NF T 90-350. Guide technique. Agences de l’eau, Ministère de l’Environnement, Conseil Supérieur de la Pêche. Février 1995, 69 ppGoogle Scholar
  3. AFNOR, 1985. Essai des eaux: Détermination de l’indice biologique global (I.B.G.). Normalisation française T90-350. AFNOR, Paris, France, Octobre 1985, 8 ppGoogle Scholar
  4. AFNOR, 1992. Essai des eaux: Détermination de l’indice biologique global normalisé (I.B.G.N.). Normalisation française NF T90-350. AFNOR, Paris, France, Décembre 1992, 9␣ppGoogle Scholar
  5. AFNOR, 2004. Qualité de l’eau: Détermination de l’indice biologique global normalisé (I.B.G.N.). Normalisation française NF T90-350. AFNOR, Paris, France, Mars 2004, 16 ppGoogle Scholar
  6. Archaimbault, V., P. Usseglio-Polatera & J.-P. Vanden Bossche, 2005. Functional differences among benthic macroinvertebrate communities in reference streams of same order in a given biogeographic area. Hydrobiologia 551: 171–182Google Scholar
  7. Bary-Lenger, A., R. Evrard & P. Gathy, 1988. La forêt. Éditions du Perron, Liège, 1988, 619 ppGoogle Scholar
  8. Bournaud, M., Cellot, B., Richoux, P., Berrahou, A. 1996Macroinvertebrate community structure and environmental characteristics along a large river: congruity of patterns for identification to species or familyJournal of the North American Benthological Society15232253Google Scholar
  9. Chantraine, J., A. Autran & C. Cavelier, 2003. Carte géologique de la France à l’échelle du millionième. 6ème édition. Service Géologique National. BRGM éditions, ParisGoogle Scholar
  10. Charvet, S., Statzner, B., Usseglio-Polatera, P., Dumont, B. 2000Traits of benthic macroinvertebrates in semi-natural French streams: an initial application to biomonitoring in EuropeFreshwater Biology43277296Google Scholar
  11. Christians, Ch., Daels, L. 1988Belgium. A geographical introduction to its regional diversity and its human richnessBulletin de la Société Géographique de Liège241180Google Scholar
  12. Dolédec, S., Statzner, B., Bournaud, M. 1999Species traits for future monitoring across ecoregions: patterns along a human-impacted riverFreshwater Biology42737758Google Scholar
  13. Dupuis, J. 1966Carte pédologique de la France à l’échelle du millionièmeInstitut National de la Recherche Agronomique INRA EditionsParisGoogle Scholar
  14. De Pauw, N., J. -P. Vanden Bossche & K. De Brabander, 2001. In Northrhine-Westfalia Agency of Environment (ed.), Assessment and Classification of Rivers in Belgium. Proceedings of an international Workshop on Assessment and Classification of Rivers, 5–7 November 1995. Rhinish Academy of Science, Düsseldorf, Germany, 83–101Google Scholar
  15. E. C. N., 1994a. Water Quality – Methods for Biological Sampling – Guidance on Handnet Sampling of Aquatic Benthic Macro-Invertebrates (ISO 7828: 1985). European Standard EN 27828. European Committee for Standardization, January 1994, Brussels, 6 ppGoogle Scholar
  16. E. C. N., 1994b. Water Quality – Design and Use of Quantitative Samplers for Benthic Macro-Invertebrates on Stony Substrata in Shallow Freshwaters (ISO 8265: 1988). European Standard EN 28265. European Committee for Standardization, January 1994, Brussels, 9 ppGoogle Scholar
  17. European Council, 2000. Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy. Official Journal of the European Communities, December 2000, Brussels, 72 ppGoogle Scholar
  18. Everaerts-Poll, M. & J.-P.Vanden Bossche, 2000. Évaluation biologique de la qualité des cours d’eau. Centre technique et pédagogique de l’Enseignement de la Communauté française (ed.), Ministère de la Communauté française, Ministère de la Région wallonne, 92 ppGoogle Scholar
  19. Gayraud, S., Statzner, B. 2003Invertebrate traits for the biomonitoring of European large rivers: an initial assessment of alternative metricsFreshwater Biology4820452064CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gouvernement wallon, 2004. Décision du 6 mai 2004. Proposition de délimitation et de première caractérisation au sens de la Directive 2000/60/CE des masses d’eau de surface et des masses d’eau souterraine en Région Wallonne. JambesGoogle Scholar
  21. Huet, M. 1949Aperçu des relations entre la pente et les populations piscicoles des eaux courantesRevue Suisse d’Hydrologie11333351Google Scholar
  22. Josens, G., A. Bij de Vaate, P. Usseglio-Polatera, R. Cammaerts, F. Chérot, F. Grisez, P. Verboonen & J.-P. Vanden Bossche, in press. Native and exotic Amphipoda and other Peracarida in the river Meuse: new assemblages emerge from a fast changing fauna. Hydrobiologia 542: 203–220Google Scholar
  23. Illies, J. eds. 1978Limnofauna EuropaeaFischerStuttgart, New York,532 ppGoogle Scholar
  24. Moog, O. (ed.), 1995. Fauna Aquatica Austriaca, Wasserwirtschaftskataster, Bundesministerium für Land- und Forstwirtschaft, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  25. MRW, 1998. Atlas de Wallonie. Direction générale de l’Aménagement du Territoire, du Logement et du Patrimoine. Ministère de la Région Wallonne. Namur, 75 ppGoogle Scholar
  26. MRW-DGRNE, 2000. État de l’environnement wallon: L’environnement wallon à l’aube du XXIe siècle. Ministère de la Région Wallonne. Namur, 420 ppGoogle Scholar
  27. Refcond Working Group 2.3, 2003. Guidance on establishing reference conditions and ecological status class boundaries for inland surface waters. Final version. EU Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) for the Water Framework Directive, 86 pp. (unpublished report)Google Scholar
  28. Resh, V. H., Hildrew, A. G., Statzner, B., Townsend, C. R. 1994Theoretical habitat templets, species traits, and species richness: a synthesis of long-term ecological research on the Upper Rhône River in the context of concurrently developed ecological theoryFreshwater Biology31539554Google Scholar
  29. Tachet, H., Richoux, P., Bournaud, M., Usseglio-Polatera, P. 2000Invertébrés d’eau douce. Systématique, biologie, écologieCNRS EditionsParis,588 ppGoogle Scholar
  30. Thioulouse, J., S, Dolédec Chessel, D., Olivier, J. M. 1997ADE-4: a multivariate analysis and graphical display softwareStatistics and Computing77583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Usseglio-Polatera, P., Beisel, J.-N. 2002Longitudinal changes in macroinvertebrate assemblages in the Meuse River: anthropogenic effects versus natural changeRiver Research and Applications18197211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Usseglio-Polatera, P., Bournaud, M., Richoux,  P., Tachet, H. 2000aBiological and ecological traits of benthic freshwater macroinvertebrates: relationships and definition of groups with similar traitsFreshwater Biology43175205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Usseglio-Polatera, P., Bournaud, M., Richoux, P., Tachet, H. 2000bBiomonitoring through biological traits of benthic macroinvertebrates: how to use species trait databases?Hydrobiologia422/423153162Google Scholar
  34. Vanden Bossche, J. -P., 1990. Réseau hydrobiologique 1990–1991. Zones de protection des eaux de surface (Arrêté de l’Exécutif régional wallon du 20/7/89). Coordonnées Lambert des points de prélèvement du réseau hydrobiologique de la Division de l’Eau. Politique générale de l’Eau, D.G.R.N.E. Ministère de la Région Wallonne, Namur, 64 pp. (unpublished report)Google Scholar
  35. Vanden Bossche, J. -P., 2001. Carte de la qualité biologique et de la biodiversité des cours d’eau de Wallonie. Résultats 1996 à 1999. Centre de Recherche de la Nature, des Forêts et du Bois. D.G.R.N.E. Ministère de la Région Wallonne, GemblouxGoogle Scholar
  36. Vanden Bossche, J. -P., Chérot, F., Delooz, E., Grisez, F., Josens, G. 2001First record of the Pontocaspian invader Hypania invalida (Grube, 1860) (Polychaeta: Ampharetidae) in the River Meuse (Belgium)Belgian Journal of Zoology131183185Google Scholar
  37. Vanden Bossche, J. -P., 2002. First records and fast spread of five new (1995–2000) alien species in the River Meuse in Belgium: Hypania invalida, Corbicula fluminea, Hemimysis anomala, Dikerogammarus villosus and Crangonyx pseudogracilis. In Peeters, M. & Van J. L. Goethem (eds), Proceedings of the Symposium 8Belgian Fauna and Alien Species’. Bulletin de l’Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique, Biologie 72-Suppl.: 73–78Google Scholar
  38. Verneaux, J., 1982. Expression biologique, qualitative et pratique, de l’aptitude des cours d’eau au développement de la faune benthique. Un coefficient d’aptitude biogène: le Cb2. Travaux du Laboratoire d’Hydrobiologie, Université de Besançon, 20 ppGoogle Scholar
  39. Wasson, J. -G. 2001Research questions arising from the European Water Framework Directive: topics related to inland surface watersHydroécologie Appliquée13119Google Scholar
  40. Wasson, J. -G., A. Chandesris, H. Pella, L. Blanc, B. Villeneuve, & N. Mengin, 2003. Détermination des valeurs de référence de l’IBGN et propositions de valeurs limites du 8Bon État’. Document de travail – Version 2. Cemagref Lyon (unpublished report)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Pierre Vanden Bossche
    • 1
  • Philippe Usseglio-Polatera
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre de Recherche de la Nature, des Forêts et du Bois, DGRNEMinistère de la Région WallonneGemblouxBelgium
  2. 2.LBFE, Équipe de DémoécologieUniversité de MetzMetzFrance

Personalised recommendations