Freshwater Reviews, Vol 4, No 1 (2011)

The feasibility of developing multi-taxa indicators for landscape scale assessment of freshwater systems

Mark Everard, Melanie Suzanne Fletcher, Anne Powell, Michael Dobson
DOI: 10.1608/FRJ-4.1.129 | Pages: 1-19


The use of bird assemblages as wetland indicators is now well established in the UK.  An indicator based on a single taxonomic group can, however, have limitations.  Conversely, a multi-taxa approach can potentially provide a more robust reflection of the health of fresh waters.  In this paper, we consider the inherent suitability of different taxonomic groups for inclusion in a multi-taxa indicator, based upon taxon characteristics, species richness and prevalence across a range of freshwater habitats, and their practical suitability, based upon quality and quantity of available data.  We conclude that, in addition to birds, there are six candidate groups of taxa throughout the world that are currently suitable for inclusion in a multi-taxa indicator.  These are: mammals, amphibians and reptiles, fish, dragonflies and damselflies (based on adult recording), benthic macroinvertebrates and macrophytes.  Of these taxa, all but amphibians and reptiles and fish are suitable for inclusion in a UK indicator.  The types and limitations of currently available datasets are reviewed.  We provide recommendations for advancing this approach in the assessment of freshwater systems.