Application of classification trees to determine biological and chemical indicators for river assessment: case study in the Chaguana watershed (Ecuador)

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Benthic macroinvertebrates were sampled in the Chaguana river basin in SW Ecuador in March (wet season) and September (dry season) of 2005 and 2006. Aquatic insects dominated the macrobenthos, with Trichoptera, Diptera, Ephemeroptera, Hemiptera and Odonata being the orders with the highest diversity and Ephemeroptera and Diptera being most abundant. No systematic differences in richness and abundance were observed between dry and wet seasons, which is in agreement with the literature. It is concluded that, in the neotropics, macroinvertebrates can probably be sampled for water quality assessments during the whole year: however, sampling soon after spates should be avoided. Using multivariate analysis, stations could be clustered into three groups based on their macroinvertebrate community composition: sites with low, intermediate and high human impact. Classification trees indicated that stations with low human impact had low conductivities, while stations with high conductivities were characterised as highly impacted if the dissolved oxygen concentration was low and intermediately impacted if the dissolved oxygen concentration was high. Classification trees also indicated that Leptophlebiidae (Ephemeroptera) were characteristic for sites with low impact; in sites with intermediate impact, this family was absent but Hydropsychidae (Trichoptera) were present; when both families were absent, impact was high.

Keywords: aquatic insects, community analysis, river basin, water quality assessment

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