Evaluation of the applicability of diatom based indices as bioindicators of water quality in South African rivers
De la Rey, Pieter Arno
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Diatoms have been proven to be reliable indicators of water quality in many countries of the world particularly Europe. The potential use of diatoms as indicators of water quality in South Africa was tested in the studies in this document. This study evaluates the potential use of diatom based indices by testing it against a macroinvertebrate index (SASS 5) and evaluating the variation in the index scores of the two indices due to changes in chemical water quality and habitat. It was concluded that the diatom monitoring system performs well as bioindicator of water quality. It was also concluded that it should be used as a complementary system to the much used SASS 5 invertebrate index. This conclusion was made due to the fact that diatoms react more directly to changes in water quality than macroinvertebrates (SASS 5), and macroinvertebrates react more readily to changes in habitat than diatoms. A further part of the study was to assess whether aut-ecological or diversity based diatom indices performed best in South African conditions. This study found that the ecological indices were more sensitive to changes in water quality than the diversity indices. The diatom based indices that performed best as water quality indicators were the specific pollution sensitivity index (SPI) and the biological diatom index (BDI). A standard method for the sampling, preparation and enumeration for diatoms to be used for index score generation is also suggested to ensure the comparability of diatom based index data to facilitate use of such bio monitoring data for management purposes. The main focus of the study was to eliminate some of the obstacles for the use of diatoms as bio indicators of water quality in South Africa. It is believe that this aim has been accomplished in the study.