Australian River Assessment System: Review of Physical River Assessment Methods — A Biological Perspective
Monitoring River Health Initiative Technical Report Number 21
Parsons, M, Thoms, M and Norris, R - Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology
Environment Australia, 2002
ISBN 0 642 54887 0 ISSN 1447-1280
- Australian River Assessment System: Review of Physical River Assessment Methods — A Biological Perspective (PDF - 600 KB)
About the report
The Australian River Assessment System (AusRivAS) is a nationally standardised approach to biological assessment of stream condition using macroinvertebrates (Coysh et al., 2000). It was developed under the auspices of the National River Health Program (NRHP). Within the AusRivAS component of the NRHP, a suite of 'toolbox' projects have been commissioned with the aim of either refining the existing assessment techniques, or developing additional aspects of river health assessment that are complementary to those made by the AusRivAS macroinvertebrate predictive models (O'Connor, 1999). One of these projects is the development of a physical and chemical assessment module.
One of the main aims of the physical and chemical assessment module is to develop a standardised protocol for the physical and chemical assessment of stream condition, that will complement the biological assessments of stream condition made using AusRivAS. Disregarding the chemical component for now, development of such a protocol requires simultaneous consideration of stream condition from a biological and a physical perspective. While there would seem to be obvious interdependencies between the physical and biological components of streams, merging the two components is, in reality, a complex task because of the different paradigms that exist within the disciplines of stream ecology and fluvial geomorphology. The physical and chemical assessment module represents a first step in bringing together biological and physical or geomorphological approaches to the assessment of stream condition. However, in developing a standardised protocol for physical assessment of stream condition, that is directly relevant to biological assessment of stream condition, several questions become apparent:
- which physical variables are related to the distribution and abundance of biota?;
- how might geomorphological process variables, that describe the formation of habitats, be related to biota?;
- are there any geomorphological process variables that are unrelated to biota but which are useful for describing the condition of a stream from a physical perspective?;
- at which scales are biota related to different habitat components?;
- can geomorphological process variables be measured within the 'rapid' biomonitoring philosophy, while still retaining the necessary levels of precision and accuracy?