Publications: Guidelines, models and sampling protocols

Protocols for sampling macroinvertebrates in wadeable streams

  • Stark JD,
  • Boothroyd IKG,
  • Harding JS,
  • Maxted JR,
  • and Scarsbrook MR
1 November, 2001
New Zealand Macroinvertebrate Working Group report number 1. Prepared for the Ministry for Environment, Sustainable Management Fund. Contract no. 5103.

In 1997 the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) established a 'New Zealand Macroinvertebrate Working Group' charged with investigating the use of aquatic macroinvertebrates in monitoring, and especially State of the Environment (SOE) programmes. The need arose from the Environmental Indicators Programme and the 'National Agenda for Sustainable Water Management' (NASWM) both developed by MfE. A synthesis report prepared by this group recommended the development of standard methods for macroinvertebrate monitoring (MfE 1999).

In the past, many freshwater biologists collected and analysed macroinvertebrate samples in 'isolation', providing interpretation and opinion, often with little peer review or quality control. Frequently they relied on training and experience obtained during tertiary education or "on-the-job", and became 'schooled' into a particular view or procedure for macroinvertebrate sampling, analysis, and interpretation. This led to a plethora of different methodologies in use around the country. This was commonplace in the past, when cost-effectiveness was not a major issue and our knowledge of freshwaters generally was less advanced – indeed the pioneering efforts of such biologists have contributed significantly to our current knowledge.

However, pressure from new legislation, demands from the public, politicians and economic markets to improve the environment, increasing costs and limited budgets now place more emphasis on obtaining sound data to provide good, defensible interpretation and advice. Often existing data are used for multiple purposes, as the cost of obtaining data to answer all enquiries separately is prohibitive.

Accountabilities have changed to the extent that scientists, like many disciplines today, have to ensure that decisions are transparent, objective, and based on information of proven reliability. Furthermore, without reliable and sound data, the results are often open to criticism and alternative interpretation. These protocols were developed to meet these demands and to provide for sound decision-making based on reliable and quality data. The focus is on efficiency, scientific defensibility, consistency, ease of use, practicability, and applicability to wadeable streams throughout New Zealand.

The protocols outlined in this document were developed in conjunction with freshwater ecologists in regional councils, universities, and research institutes in New Zealand. The proposed standard protocols are based on procedures currently used by these agencies to minimise the change required and to maximise the value of existing data sets. As a result, the selected protocols are directed at three primary activities of regional councils: SOE monitoring, Assessments of Environmental Effects (AEE), and compliance monitoring.