Ecological assessment of running waters using bio-indicators : associated variability and uncertainty

Abstract : Sensitive biological measures of ecosystem quality are needed to assess, maintain or restore the ecological conditions of rivers. Since our understanding of these complex systems is imperfect, river management requires recognizing variability and uncertainty of bio-assessment for decision-making. Based on the analysis of national data sets (~ 1654 sites), the main goals of this work were (1) to test some of the assumptions that shape bio-indicators and (2) address the temporal variability and the uncertainty associated to prediction of reference conditions.(1) This thesis highlights (i) the predominant role of physiographic factors in shaping biological communities in comparison to human pressures (defined at catchment, riparian corridor and reach scales), (ii) the differences in the responses of biological indicators to the different types of human pressures (water quality, hydrological, morphological degradations) and (iii) more generally, the greatest biological impacts of water quality alterations and impoundments. (2) A Bayesian method was developed to estimate the uncertainty associated with reference condition predictions of a fish-based bio-indicator (IPR+). IPR+ predictive uncertainty was site-dependent but showed no clear trend related to the environmental gradient. By comparison, IPR+ temporal variability was lower and sensitive to an increase of human pressure intensity. This work confirmed the advantages of multi-metric indexes based on functional metrics in comparison to compositional metrics. The different sensitivities of macrophytes, fish, diatoms and macroinvertebrates to human pressures emphasize their complementarity in assessing river ecosystems. Nevertheless, future research is needed to better understand the effects of interactions between pressures and between pressures and the environment.
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Anahita Marzin. Ecological assessment of running waters using bio-indicators : associated variability and uncertainty. Agricultural sciences. AgroParisTech, 2013. English. ⟨NNT : 2013AGPT0002⟩. ⟨pastel-00879788⟩

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