The Regulatory Agencies for surface waters in the UK (the Environment Agency; Scottish Environment Protection Agency; and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency) have recently begun to use the new River Invertebrate Classification Tool (RICT) to classify the ecological quality of rivers. RICT incorporates RIVPACS (River InVertebrate Prediction And Classification Software) predictive models and is a highly capable tool written in a modern software programming language.
RICT (incorporating new RIVPACS IV predictive models) has now superseded the MS-DOS based RIVPACS III+ software as the official tool for Water Framework Directive macroinvertebrate classification by the UK Agencies.
The FBA, in collaboration with Bournemouth University, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and Queen Mary University of London, has led several of the recent research and development projects on the RIVPACS models that underpin RICT. These are briefly summarised below.
This SNIFFER funded project included a review of the species level biotic indices in use across the UK and Europe and the required level of taxonomic resolution to calculate them. A new intermediate level of species identification was defined to enable the UK Agencies to process species-level macroinvertebrate samples that could be used to derive biotic indices without having to work at the traditional, and very detailed, ‘RIVPACS species level'.
Project WFD100 also addressed the long running need to improve the macroinvertebrate abundance data in the RIVPACS dataset. This was achieved by re-entry of abundance data from the original laboratory data sheets for over 2000 RIVPACS reference samples. This has enabled the RIVPACS models to provide reference condition predictions for a wide range of abundance based biotic indices.
The project also included a review of the predictor variables used by the RIVPACS models to see if it might be possible to improve the independence of RIVPACS predictions from physical environmental stressors.
The project final report can be downloaded from this link: WFD100 Report
While RICT classifies waters for general degradation and organic pollution stress, WFD compliance monitoring also requires the UK Agencies to assess the impacts of a wide range of other pressures including hydro-morphological and acidification stresses. Some of these pressures alter the predictor variables that current RIVPACS models use to derive predicted biotic indices.
Building on project WFD100, this SNIFFER funded project has broadened the scope of RICT by developing new RIVPACS models that do not use predictor variables that are affected by stressors, but instead use alternative GIS based variables that are wholly independent of environmental pressures.
The project final report can be downloaded from this link: WFD119 Report
The FBA, in collaboration with Queen Mary University of London, has also led a recent R&D project funded by the Environment Agency that has sought to improve the performance of RICT in deep rivers.
While the reference samples that RIVPACS is based on have generally been collected with a standardised kick/sweep sampling method, the samples from deep river reference sites have been sampled with a variety of methods. In this project, work was done to assess the extent of the standardisation problems in the deep river reference samples, and to determine what actions would be needed to re-sample those sites with more rigorously standardised deep river sampling methods.
Rules were also developed to help choose the appropriate sampling method based on a combination of stream width and depth measurements. The health and safety aspects of airlift sampling were also examined.
The final report for this project is currently in review with the UK Agencies.
The RIVPACS models are based on a database of reference samples from streams and rivers across the UK. These were collected between 1978 and 2002. This database is available to download from the following link on the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology web site: RIVPACS Database
This page was last updated on the 10th February 2012.