Development of a fish-based index combining data from different types of fishing gear. A case study of reservoirs in Flanders (Belgium)

Jan Breine, Gerlinde Van Thuyne, Luc De Bruyn


Fish assemblages in reservoirs and lakes are mainly assessed by multiple sampling gear. The challenge exists in how to combine all the data from the different types of gear to develop a fish-based index. In this paper, we describe a novel approach to this challenge in reservoirs in Flanders. The developed approach can also be used for natural lakes in the same eco-region and for any combination of fishing methods. In a first step, we defined a reference list of fish species occurring in man-made Flemish reservoirs. To compile this reference list, we adapted the reference for Dutch lakes with recent data from freshwater reservoirs in Flanders. This reference list contains guild-specific information needed to define metrics. To pre-classify the reservoirs, a habitat status for each reservoir was set using abiotic parameters (pressures). Fish gear-dependent metrics were selected according to their response to these pressures. Threshold values for metrics were determined based on the species reference list and occasionally on the calculated metric values. The ecological quality ratios derived from the index calculation were validated with an independent set of data. The developed index proved to successfully assess the ecological status of the reservoirs in Flanders.


fish reference list; fish-based index; modelling; monitoring; European Water Framework Directive

Full Text:



Appelberg M, Bergquist BC & Degerman E (2000). Using fish to assess environmental disturbance of Swedish lakes and streams - a preliminary approach. Verhandlungen der Internationalen Vereinigung für Limnologie, 27:311-315.

Argillier C, Caussé S, Gevrey M, Pédron M, De Bortoli J, Brucet S, Emmrich M, Jeppesen E, Lauridsen T, Mehner T, Olin M, Rask M, Volta P, Winfield IJ, Kelly F, Krause T, Palm A & Holmgren K (2013). Development of a fish-based index to assess the eutrophication status of European lakes. Hydrobiologia, 704 (1):193-211.

Backx JJGM, Beers M, Higler B, Jaarsma N, Klinge M, Kranenbarg J, de Leeuw J, Ottburg F, van de Ven M & Vriese T (2008). Achtergronddocument referenties en maatlatten vissen ten behoefte van de kaderrichtlijn water. 110 pp. (In Dutch)

Beck MW & Hatch LK (2009). A review of research on the development of lake indices of biotic integrity. Environmental Reviews, 17:21-44.

Belpaire C, Smolders R, Vanden Auweele I, Ercken D, Breine J, Van Thuyne G & Ollevier F (2000). An Index of Biotic Integrity characterizing fish populations and the ecological quality of Flandrian water bodies. Hydrobiologia, 434:17-33.

Bonar SA, Hubert W & Willis D (2009). Standard methods for sampling North American freshwater fishes. American Fisheries Society, 335 pp.

Breine J, Maes J, Quataert P, Van den Bergh E, Simoens I, Van Thuyne G & Belpaire C (2007). A fish-based assessment tool for the ecological quality of the brackish Schelde estuary in Flanders (Belgium). Hydrobiologia, 575 (1):141-159.

Breine J, Quataert P, Stevens M, Ollevier F, Volckaert F, Van den Bergh E & Maes J (2010). A zone-specific fish-based index as a management tool for the Zeeschelde estuary (Belgium). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 60 (7):1099-1112.

Breine J, Simoens I, Goethals P, Quataert P, Ercken D, Van Liefferinge C & Belpaire C (2004). A fish-based index of biotic integrity for upstream brooks in Flanders (Belgium). Hydrobiologia, 522:133-148.

Breine J, Simoens I, Haidvogl G, Melcher A, Pont D & Schmutz S (2005). Manual for the application of the European Fish Index - EFI. A fish-based method to assess the ecological status of European rivers in support of the water framework directive. Version 1.1, January 2005, 81 pp.

Breine J, Stevens M, Van den Bergh E & Maes J (2011). A reference list of fish species for a heavily modified transitional water:The Zeeschelde (Belgium). Belgian Journal of Zoology, 141 (1):44-55.

Carol J, Benejam L, Alcaraz C, Vila-Gispert A, Zamora L, Navarro E, Armengol J & Garcia-Berthou E (2006). The effects of limnological features on fish assemblages of 14 Spanish reservoirs. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 15 (1):66-77.

Casselman JM & Harvey HH (1975). Selective fish mortality resulting from low winter oxygen. Verhandlungen der Internationalen Vereinigung für Limnologie, 19:2418-2429. (in German)

Catalan J & Ventura M (2003). Desenvolupament d’un índex integral de qualitat ecològica i regionalització ambiental dels sistemes lacustres de Catalunya. Centre d’Estudis A-vançats (CSIC), Agència Catalana de l’Aigua, Generalitat de Catalunya, Departament de Medi Ambient i Habitatge, Blanes, 177 pp. (in Catalan)

CEN (2005). Water quality - sampling of fish with multi-mesh gillnets 08/2005. EN 14757.

Chow-Fraser P, Kostuk K, Seilheimer T, Weimer M, MacDougall T & Theÿsmeÿer T (2006). Effect of wetland quality on sampling bias associated with two fish survey methods for coastal wetlands of the lower Great Lakes. In:Simon TP & Stewart PM (eds), Coastal wetlands of the Laurentian Great Lakes:health, habitat and indicators, Indiana Biological Survey, Bloomington, Indiana:239-262.

CWD (2012). Report of the commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the Implementation of the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC); Commission Staff Working Document, Brussels, 139 pp.

Didier J (1997). Indice biotique d’intégrité piscicole pour évaluer la qualité écologique des écosystèmes lotiques. Thèse de doctorat Presses Universitaires de Namur, Namur, 273 pp.

Dodds WK., Bouska W, Eitzmann JL, Pilger TJ, Pitts KL, Riley AJ, Schloesser JT & DJ Thonbrugh (2009). Eutrophication of U.S. freshwaters:analysis of potential economic damages. Environmental Science and Technology, 43 (1):12-19.

Drake MT & Pereira DL (2002) Development of a fish-based index of biotic integrity for small inland lakes in Central Minnesota. North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 22 (4):1105-1123.

Emmrich M, Brucet S, Ritterbusch D & Mehner T (2011). Size spectra of lake fish assemblages:responses along gradients of general environmental factors and intensity of lake-use. Freshwater Biology, 56 (11):2316-2333.

EU Water Framework Directive (2000). Directive of the European parliament and of the council 2000/60/EC establishing a framework for community action in the field of water policy. Official Journal of the European Communities 22.12.2000 L 327/1.

FAO (1984). Inland Aquatic Engineering. Project Reports ADCP/REP/21, 596 pp.

FAO (1989). Selected aspects of warmwater fish culture. A compilation based on lectures presented at a series of FAO/AGFUND International Training Courses in Aquaculture hosted by Hungary in 1987 and 1988. GCP/INT/435/AGF, 181 pp.

Fisher JR (2012). Characterizing lentic fish assemblages and community-environment rela-tionships:An evaluation of natural lakes and reservoirs in Iowa, USA. Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 12854 Iowa State University, 133 pp.

Garcia X-F, Diekmann M, Brämick U, Lemcke R & Mehner T (2006). Correlations between type indicator fish species and lake productivity in German lowland lakes. Journal of Fish Biology, 68 (4):1144-1157.

Gassner H, Tischler G & Wanzenböck J (2003). Ecological integrity assessment of lakes using fish communities - Suggestions of new metrics developed in two Austrian prealpine lakes. International Review of Hydrobiology, 88 (6):635-652.

Goffaux D, Roset N, Breine JJ, de Leeuw JJ, Oberdorff T & Kestemont P (2001). A biotic index of fish integrity (IBIP) to evaluate the ecological quality of lotic ecosystems - application to the Meuse River basin. Final Report:Life97/ENV/B/000419:171 pp.

Hickman GD & McDonough TA (1996). Assessing the reservoir fish assemblage index:A potential measure of reservoir quality. In:Miranda LE & De Vries DR (eds), Multidimensional approaches to reservoir fisheries management, vol. 16. Chattanooga, Tennessee:American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Mayrland, USA:85-97.

Holmgren K, Kinnerbäck A, Pakkasmaa S, Bergquist B & Beier U (2007). Bedömningsgrunder för fiskfaunans status I sjoär. Fiskeriverket Informerar 3:54. (In Swedish)

Hughes RM & Oberdorff T (1999). Applications of IBI Concepts and Metrics to Water Outside the United States and Canada. In: Simon TP (ed), Assessing the Sustainability and Biological Integrity of Water Resources Using Fish Communities. CRC Press LLC, Washington DC:62-74.

Jaarsma N (2007). Description of references and metrics for fish in lakes in the Netherlands (unpublished). Witteveen & Bos consulting engineers.

Jackson DA & Harvey HH (1997). Qualitative and quantitative sampling of lake fish communities. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 54:2807-2813.

Jennings MJ, Lyons J, Emmons EE, Hatzenbeler GR, Bozek MA, Simonson TD, Beard Jr. TD & Fago D (1999). Toward the development of an index of biotic integrity for inland lakes in Wisconsin. In:Simon TP (ed), Assessing the Sustainability and Biological Integrity of Water Resources Using Fish Communities, CRC Press LLC, Washington DC:541-562.

Jeppesen E, Jensen JP, Søndergaard M, Lauridsen T & Landkildehus F (2000). Trophic structure, species richness, and biodiversity in Danish lakes:changes along phosphorus gradient. Freshwater Biology, 45:201-218.

Jeppesen E, Mehner T, Winfield IJ, Kangur K, Sarvala J, Gerdeaux D, Rask M, Malmquist HJ, Holmgren K, Volta P, Romo S, Eckmann R, Sandström A, Blanco S, Kangur A, Ragnarsson Stabo H, Tarvainen M, Ventelä A-M, Søndergaard M, Lauridsen TL & Meerhoff M (2012). Impacts of climate warming on the long-term dynamics of key fish species in 24 European lakes. Hydrobiologia, 694:1-39.

Karr JR (1981). Assessment of biotic integrity using fish communities. Fisheries, 6 (6):21-27.

Karr JR, Fausch KD, Angermeier PR, Yant PR & Schlosser IJ (1986). Assessing Biological Integrity in Running Waters:A Method and its Rationale. Illinois Natural History Survey Special Publication, 5:1-28.

Krebs CJ (1998). Ecological methodology, second edition. Benjamin Cummings, Menlo Park, California, 624 pp.

Kottelat M & Freyhoff J (2007). Handbook of European freshwater fishes. Ch-2952 Cornol, 646 pp.

Kubečka J, Hohausová E, Matěna J, Peterka J, Amarasinghe US, Bonar SA, Hateley J, Hickley P, Suuronen P, Tereschenko V, Welcomme R & Winfield IJ (2009). The true picture of a lake or reservoir fish stock: A review of needs and progress. Fisheries Research, 96 (1):1-5.

Launois L, Veslot J, Irz P & Argillier C (2011a). Development of a fish-based index (FBI) of biotic integrity for French lakes using the hindcasting approach. Ecological Indicators, 11 (6):1572-1583.

Launois L, Veslot J, Irz P & Argillier C (2011b). Selecting fish-based metrics responding to human pressures in French natural lakes and reservoirs: towards the development of a fish-based index (FBI) for French lakes. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 20 (1):120-132.

Lyche-Solheim A, Feld CK, Birk S, Phillips G, Carvalho L, Morabito G, Mischke U, Willby N, Søndergaard M, Hellsten S, Kolada A, Mjelde M, Böhmer J, Miler O, Pusch MT, Argillier C, Jeppesen J, Lauridsen TL & Poikane S (2013). Ecological status assessment of European lakes: a comparison of metrics for phytoplankton, macrophytes, benthic invertebrates and fish. Hydrobiologia, 704 (1):57-74.

Marshall TR (1977). Morphological, physiological, and ethological differences between Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum vitreum) and Pikeperch (S. lucioperca). Journal of Fisheries Board of Canada, 31(10):1515-1523.

Lewis WM Jr (1983). A revised classification of lakes based on mixing. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 40 (10):1779-1787.

McCormick FH, Hughes RM, Kaufmann PR, Peck DV, Stoddard JL & Herlihy AT (2001). Development of an index of biotic integrity for the Mid-Atlantic Highlands Region. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 130 (5):857-877.

Meador MR & Carlise DM (2007). Quantifying tolerance indicator values for common stream fish species of the United States. Ecological Indicators, 7:329-338.

Mehner T, Diekmann M, Garcia X-F, Brämick U & Lemcke R (2004). Ökologische Bewertung von Seen anhand der Fischfauna. Berichte des IGB, 21:1-202.

Miller DL, Leonard PM, Hughes RM, Karr JR, Moyle PB, Schrader LH, Thompson BA, Daniels RA, Faush KD, Fitzhugh GA, Gammon JR, Halliwel DB, Angermeier PL & Orth DJ (1988). Regional applications of an index of biotic integrity for use in water resource management. Fisheries, 13 (5):12-20.

Minns CK, Cairns VW, Randall RG & Moore JE (1994). An index of biotic integrity (IBI) for fish assemblages in the littoral zone of Great Lakes’ areas of concern. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science, 51 (8):1804-1822.

Moss B, Stephen D, Alvarez C, Becares E, Van De Bund W, Collings SE, Van Donk E, De Eyto E, Feldmann T, Fernandez-Aláez C, Fernandez-Aláez M, Franken RJM, García-Criado F, Gross EM, Gyllström M, Hansson L-A, Irvine K, Järvalt A, Jensen J-P, Jeppesen E, Kairesalo T, Kornijów R, Krause T, Künnap H, Laas A, Lill E, Lorens B, Luup H, Miracle MR, Nõges P, Nõges T, Nykänen M, Ott I, Peczula W, Peeters ETHM, Phillips G, Romo S, Russell V, Salujõe J, Scheffer M, Siewertsen K, Smal H, Tesch C, Timm H, Tuvikene L, Tonno I, Virro T, Vicente E & Wilson D (2003). The determination of ecological status in shallow lakes - a tested system (ECOFRAME) for implementation of the European Water Framework Directive Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 13 (6):507-549.

Nakagawa S & Schielzeth H (2013). A general and simple method for obtaining R² from generalizes linear mixed-effects models. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 4:133-142.

Nicola GG, Elvira B & Almodóvar A (1996). Dams and fish passages facilities in the large rivers of Spain:effects on migratory species. Archiv für Hydrobiologie, Supplementband Large Rivers, 113 (10):375-379.

Novotny V, Bartošová A, O’Reilly N & Ehlinger T (2005); Unlocking the relationship of biotic integrity of impaired waters to anthropogenic stresses. Water Research, 39:184-198.

Persson L (1983). Effects of intra- and interspecific competition on dynamics and size structure of a perch Perca fluviatilis and roach Rutilus rutilus. Oikos, 41:126-132.

Quataert P, Verschelde P, Breine J, Verbeke G, Goetghebeur E & Ollevier F (2011). A diagnostic modelling framework to construct indices of biotic integrity:A case study of fish in the Zeeschelde estuary (Belgium). Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 94:222-233.

Ramm AEL (1990). Application of the community degradation index to South African estuaries. Water Research, 24 (3):383-389.

R Development Core Team (2012). R:A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria. Available at, Foundation for Statistical Computing.

Ritterbusch D, Schubert M & Brämick U (2011). Lake Fish Milsestone 6 Report. In:Interkalibrierung und Fortentwickelung der fischbasierten Seen- und Flieβgewässerbewertung gemäβ EU-Wasserrahmenrichtline Project O 5.11, 82 pp. (in German and English)

Shields FD Jr., Knight SS & Cooper CM (1995). Use of the index of biotic integrity to assess physical habitat degradation in warmwater streams. Hydrobiologia, 312:191-208.

Steedman RJ (1988). Modification and assessment of an index of biotic integrity to quantify stream quality in Southern Ontario. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science, 45 (3):492-501.

Vandekerkhove J, Cardoso AC & Boon PJ (2013). Is there need for a more explicit accounting of invasive alien species under the Water Framework Directive? Management of Biological Invasions, 4, open access, 12 pp.

Verreycken H, Anseeuw D, Van Thuyne G, Quataert P & Belpaire C (2007). The nonindigenous freshwater fishes of Flanders (Belgium): review, status and trends over the last decade. Journal of Fish Biology, 71 (Supplement D):160-172.

Wang L, Lyons J, Kanehl P & Bannerman R (2001). Impact of urbanization on stream habitat and fish across multiple spatial scales. Environmental Management, 28 (2):255-266.

Wetzel RG (1983). Limnology (2nd edition) Saunders College publishing, New York:255-297.

Whittier TR (1999). Development of IBI metrics for lakes in southern New England. In:Simon TP (ed), Assessing the Sustainability and Biological Integrity of Water Resources Using Fish Communities, CRC Press LLC, Washington DC:563-582.

Wiśniewolski W & Prus P (2009). Preliminary criteria for ecological status assessment index for dam reservoirs on the basis of the ichthyofauna assemblages. Annals of Warsaw University of Life Sciences - SGGW, Land Reclamation, 41 (2):131-141.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

The Royal Belgian Society of Zoology acknowledges the Universitarian Foundation of Belgium and the National Fund of Scientific Research for their financial support in publishing the Belgian Journal of Zoology.