Development and use of a system for predicting the macroinvertebrate fauna in flowing waters



Abstract River InVertebrate Prediction And Classification System (rivpacs) is a software package developed by the Institute of Freshwater Ecology (IFE) for assessing the biological quality of rivers in the United Kingdom. The system can be used to generate site-specific predictions of the macroinvertebrate fauna to be expected in the absence of major environmental stress. Each prediction is based on a small number of environmental features that are used to characterize the site. The fauna predicted can then be compared with the fauna observed at the same site. This offers a procedure for evaluating biological quality with application in river management both at the local level and for national surveys. Close collaboration between the IFE team and biologists in the water industry during the project had a beneficial influence on the operational development of the system.

A second feature of RIVPACS is the national classification of sites, based on the macro-invertebrate fauna. Although the classification is currently a pre-requisite for the prediction system, it also has intrinsic value because newly sampled sites of high biological quality can be placed within the national framework, based on their macroinvertebrate fauna. This facility is of interest to the statutory nature conservation bodies as an element in their site appraisal procedures.

The predictive component of the current version of the system (RIVPACS n) was used in the 1990 River Quality Survey to assess the biological quality of almost 9000 sites throughout the United Kingdom. Further developmental work is now under way to provide a more comprehensive version of the system for the 1995 survey.