11. Can Mediterranean River Plants Translate into Quality Assessment Systems? Venturing into Unexplored Territories

  1. Philip J. Boon2 and
  2. Paul J. Raven3
  1. Ian Dodkins,
  2. Francisca Aguiar and
  3. Maria Teresa Ferreira

Published Online: 17 FEB 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781119961819.ch11

River Conservation and Management

River Conservation and Management

How to Cite

Dodkins, I., Aguiar, F. and Teresa Ferreira, M. (2012) Can Mediterranean River Plants Translate into Quality Assessment Systems? Venturing into Unexplored Territories, in River Conservation and Management (eds P. J. Boon and P. J. Raven), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781119961819.ch11

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Scottish Natural Heritage, Edinburgh, UK

  2. 3

    Environment Agency, Bristol, UK

Author Information

  1. Forest Research Centre, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 17 FEB 2012
  2. Published Print: 23 MAR 2012

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470682081

Online ISBN: 9781119961819



  • intermittent flow;
  • macrophytes;
  • diatoms;
  • biological monitoring;
  • Water Framework Directive;
  • Mean Trophic Rank;
  • Portugal;
  • Riparian Vegetation Index


Mediterranean rivers have a different character to temperate rivers, with high winter flows and intermittent or no surface water during the summer months. The number of aquatic macrophytes found in temporary rivers is low; however, non-aquatic species that establish in the river bed could be good indicators of sediment deposition and hydrological regime. A review of previous macrophyte assessment indices shows that most do not function well in Mediterranean rivers.

Alternative approaches to developing indices suitable for Mediterranean rivers were considered and a method was devised that uses both diatoms and macrophytes in the same index. This index had a high correlation with a nutrient pressure gradient. This study also shows that indices may be sensitive to the number of species in the index when using species scores calibrated along a pressure gradient. Thus, increasing the number of species in a single biological index may increase the ability to detect human impacts in Mediterranean rivers. This could be done by including non-aquatic species within the channel, or by combining biological elements in one index, such as the combined diatom–macrophyte index.

Indices developed for temperate rivers in Europe could also benefit from combining diatoms and macrophytes since species numbers are increased. It is suggested that future biological monitoring, particularly for the diagnosis of specific impacts, use biological elements in a more integrated way.