• lakes;
  • littoral zone;
  • mesohabitats;
  • invertebrates;
  • Water Framework Directive;
  • ecological quality assessment


  • 1.
    Historically, ecological assessment of lakes has depended on open-water chemical and phytoplankton analysis, with trophic status determined by chlorophyll a and total phosphorus following the general protocol of the OECD lake classification scheme. This has been accompanied by a prevailing opinion that the littoral zone of lakes is too heterogeneous to allow meaningful inter-lake comparisons.
  • 2.
    Council of the European Communities Directive 2000/60/EC establishing a framework in the field of water policy (the Water Framework Directive) requires a broader approach to ecological assessment, including the need to incorporate a range of biotic variables. This paper describes the results of a monitoring programme designed to determine within- and among-lake variation of macroinvertebrate communities found in defined mesohabitats of 22 lakes incorporating a range of lake types. Three sampling approaches were applied to the study.
  • 3.
    Triplicate macroinvertebrate samples from a cobble/pebble mesohabitat of 11 lakes showed that community composition from a standard habitat was robust.
  • 4.
    Twinned samples from contrasting habitats of pebble/cobble and macrophyte dominated mesohabitats of 21 lakes had greater similarity within than among lakes. This showed that even across contrasting habitat structure, macroinvertebrate assemblages can provide a reliable lake-specific indicator.
  • 5.
    Multivariate analysis of replicate samples from 15 visually distinct mesohabitats in one lake showed that within-lake variation could, nevertheless, be identified as distinct clusters of invertebrate assemblages.
  • 6.
    Conclusions from the work are that variations within lakes were nested in among-lake variation across a range of lake types, and that macroinvertebrate assemblages can provide meaningful assessment of ecological differences across lakes. Monitoring can, however, produce a substantial amount of ‘noise’ from the data that reflects the complexity of macroinvertebrate community structure in littoral zones. It is recommended that incorporation of macroinvertebrates in ecological assessment is most useful when confined to well defined mesohabitats rather than attempt to incorporate a complete range of mesohabitats within a single lake.

Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.