Relationships macroinvertebrates and their environment

Foodweb of Swamp

Investigation of the relationships between environmental variables and freshwater macroinvertebrates

Background and context

Current water assessment methods under the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) assess water quality in a single grade: 0-1, but in case of insufficient water quality the outcome often does not show which environmental variables are responsible for a low WFD score. The addition of a diagnosis of why a waterbody has a certain water quality is an important improvement to freshwater biomonitoring. With this additional information, water managers can choose more effective restoration measures to improve water quality. Currently, Naturalis has a research project on monitoring aquatic biodiversity. Part of this project is focused on designing a diagnostic tool for water quality assessment.

Objectives and goals

To achieve such diagnosis, a macroinvertebrate based biomonitoring tool is being developed in project Waterscan from Naturalis. For this tool, the relationships between important environmental variables and the presence of macroinvertebrate species must be investigated. To determine which environmental variables are most suited to be included, the concept of ‘ecological key factors’ is used. These key factors are environmental variables that directly affect macroinvertebrates, and have been assembled through expert opinion. However, to fully determine the hierarchy between different key factors more empirical data is required.

Methods, tasks and approach

Data on different environmental variables and the species composition of local macroinvertebrate communities will be collected, and their relationships analyzed. Fieldwork may consist of placing and maintaining dataloggers, measuring environmental variables and sampling of aquatic  macroinvertebrates. Lab work can involve morphological identification of macroinvertebrate species.


Due to this fieldwork, a driver’s license is essential. 


Tiedo van Kuijk, Berry van der Hoorn


Period  and duration

ca. 4-9 months

Study and level

Biology, MSc