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Taxa Tolerance Values
Soil & Water Conservation Society of Metro Halifax (SWCSMH; limneschebucto.ns.ca)
Updated: January 03, 2013 Chemical vs Biological monitoring
Notes: The tolerance values have mostly been adopted from other extensively published research which have proven to be of pragmatic value. We have also been testing those in lakes (and some streams) in Nova Scotia and are finding they are applicable in most instances with some exceptions; even in the latter case, the values did not differ by more than 1-2 points. As we collect more data over the next decade or longer, we will develop revised values, if necessary! At present, a significant number of our data are in field books and lab notes.
- RBP II: Tolerances based mostly on family levels (Table-1)
- Table-2: Modified Family Biotic Index (FBI)
- RBP III: Tolerances based on species/generic levels ........... is a more rigorous bioassessment technique!
- Table-3: Modified Biotic Index (BI)
- The Federal DFO/Environment Canada's EMAN protocols for measuring biodiversity --- the preferred sampling methodologies
- Our related finalised reports (several others are in various stages of formulation)
(Bode et al., 1996; Plafkin et al., 1989; Mackie, 2000)
Tolerance is a listing of tolerance values for each taxon used in the calculation of numerous well tested indices foremost among which are the Hilsenhoff species-level Biotic Index and the Family Biotic Index. Tolerance values range from 0 for organisms very intolerant of organic wastes to 10 for organisms very tolerant of organic wastes. Most of these values were taken from Hilsenhoff (1987) but were modified using latter data from Bode et al (1996 and 2002). For species not inluded in Hilsenhoff’s listing, such as oligochaeta, values were assigned based on water quality data from the Stream Biomonitoring Unit surveys of New York and from other literature references. Values taken from survey data were assigned by taking the mean of the tolerance values of other species in the sample.
The Hilsenhoff tolerance values were derived from more than 53 Wisconsin streams.
RBP II: Tolerance values (mostly family levels)
Note: While the taxa reported in Table-1 below had been identified in northeastern North America, nevertheless, all of them may not be present in every micro ecosystem! We have been testing the applicability of the scores in the natural lakes within the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), and we are finding a surprising confirmation although most of these scores were derived from streams from elsewhere. In rare cases of nonconfirmation and if confirmed by latter studies, we will be modifying same; to date the scores did not deviate by more than one point over a score of ten!
Table-1: Tolerance Values for macroinvertebrates for application in the Modified Family Biotic Index and other metrics (Barbour et al., 1999; Bode et al., 1996, 2002; Hauer & Lamberti, 1996; Hilsenhoff, 1988; Plafkin et al., 1989)--- some common names have been included for informational purposes!
Feeding Habit lists the primary feeding habit for each family (an approximation from the component species), using the following abbreviations:
|Superphylum Arthropoda, Phylum Entoma|
|Class Collembola (springtails)|
|Order Ephemeroptera (mayflies)|
|Order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies)|
|Order Plecoptera (stoneflies)
|Order Hemiptera (water or true bugs)|
|Corixidae (water boatmen?)||prd||5|
|Order Trichoptera (caddisflies)|
|Order Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)|
|Order Coleoptera (beetles)|
|Order Megaloptera (fishflies, dobsonflies, alderflies)|
|Corydalidae (fishflies, dobsonflies, hellgrammites)||prd||4|
| ||Order Neuroptera
|Order Diptera (Two-winged or "true flies")|
|Anthomyiidae (root maggot flies)||prd||6|
|Blephariceridae (net-winged midges)||scr||0|
|Ceratopogonidae (biting midges or no-see-ums)||prd||6|
|Chaoboridae (phantom midges)||prd||8|
|Family Chironomidae (non-biting or true midges)|
|Family Chironomidae, Blood-red (Chironomini)||8|
|Family Chironomidae, Other (including pink)||6|
| Subfamily Tanypodinae||prd||7|
| Subfamily Podonominae||c-g||1|
| Subfamily Diamesinae||c-g||2|
| Subfamily Prodiamesinae||c-g||7|
| Subfamily Orthocladiinae||c-g/shr/prd||6|
| Subfamily Chironominae||c-g/prd/shr/|
|Dixidae (dixid midges)||c-f||1|
|Empididae (dance flies)||prd||6|
|Ephydridae (shore flies, brine flies)||shr||6|
|Psychodidae (moth flies)||c-g||8|
|Scathophagidae (dung flies)||shr||6|
|Simuliidae (black flies)||c-f||6|
|Stratiomyidae (soldier flies)||c-g||7|
|Tabanidae (horse and deer flies)||c-g/prd||5|
|Tipulidae (crane flies)||c-g/prd/shr||3|
Arachnoidea (water mites)
|Order Isopoda (sow bugs)||c-g||8|
|Order Amphipoda (scuds; side swimmers)||c-g||4-8|
|Order Decapoda (shrimps, crabs, etc.)||c-g||6|
|Order Cladocera (water fleas)|
|Class Ostracoda (seed shrimps)||c-g||8|
|Class Gastropoda (snails and limpets)||scr||7|
|Class Pelecypoda/Bivalvia (clams and mussels)||c-f||8|
Unionidae (freshwater pearly mussel)
Corbiculidae (Asian clams)
Dreisseniidae (zebra and quagga mussels)
Sphaeriidae (fingernail or pea clams)
|Class Oligochaeta (aquatic worms)|| ||8|
|Class Hirudinea (leeches and bloodsuckers)|
|Class Branchiobdellida (leech-like ectosymbionts)|
|Class Polychaeta (freshwater tube worms)|
|Class Turbellaria (planarians/dugesia)||prd||4|
|Phylum Nemertea (ribbon worms)|
Modified Family Biotic Index (FBI)
(Plafkin et al., 1989; Mackie, 2000)
............ suitable as an initial assessment for detecting sites of intermediate impairment with relatively little additional time and effort. It can thus be used to prioritize sites for more intensive evaluation (i.e., RBP III, replicate sampling, ambient toxicity testing, etc.)!
Tolerance values (Table-1) range from 0 to 10 for families and increase as water quality decreases. The index was developed by Hilsenhoff (Hilsenhoff, 1988) to summarize the various tolerances of the benthic arthropod community with a single value. The Modified Family Biotic Index (FBI) was developed to detect organic pollution and is based on the original species-level index (BI) of Hilsenhoff. Tolerance values for each family were developed by weighting species according to their relative abundance in the State of Wisconsin.
In unpolluted streams the FBI was higher than the BI, suggesting lower water quality, and in polluted streams it was lower, suggesting higher water quality. These results occurred because the more intolerant genera and species in each family predominate in clean streams, whereas the more tolerant genera and species predominate in polluted streams. Thus the FBI usually indicates greater pollution of clean streams by overestimating BI values and usually indicates less pollution in polluted streams by underestimating BI values. The FBI is intended only for use as a rapid field procedure. It should not be substituted for the BI; it is less accurate and can more frequently lead to erroneous conclusions about water quality (Hilsenhoff, 1988).
The family-level index has been modified for the RBP II to include organisms other than just arthropods using the genus and species-level biotic index developed by the State of New York (Bode et al., 1991, 1996). Although the FBI may be applicable for toxic pollutants, it has only been evaluated for organic pollutants. The formula for calculating the Family Biotic Index is:
FBI = Σ(xi*ti)/(n), where
xi = number of individuals within a taxon
ti = tolerance value of a taxon
n = total number of organisms in the sample (100)
Table-2: Evaluation of water quality using the family-level biotic index (Hilsenhoff, 1988)
Note: Hilsenhoff’s family-level biotic index (1988) may require modification for some regions
|Family Biotic Index||Water Quality||Degree of Organic Pollution|
|0.00-3.75||Excellent||Organic pollution unlikely|
|3.76-4.25||Very good||Possible slight organic pollution|
|4.26-5.00||Good||Some organic pollution probable|
|5.01-5.75||Fair||Fairly substantial pollution likely|
|5.76-6.50||Fairly poor||Substantial pollution likely|
|6.51-7.25||Poor||Very substantial pollution likely|
|7.26-10.00||Very poor||Severe organic pollution likely|
RBP III: Tolerance values based on species/generic levels
Note: While the taxa reported in the below referenced Project H-1 had been identified in northeastern North America, nevertheless, all of them may not be present in every micro ecosystem! We generally concentrate on family, and where needed, on genus levels. But we carry out random verification with species levels IDs when necessary. We are finding a surprising confirmation of the scores in the natural lakes within the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) although most of these scores were derived from streams from elsewhere. In rare cases of nonconformance, and if confirmed by our later studies, we will be modifying same; to date the scores did not deviate by more than one point (to two points) over a score of ten!
Download the entire Project H-1 report titled, Benthic Macroinvertebrates in Freshwaters- Taxa Tolerance Values, Metrics, and Protocols, dated June, 2002.
Modified Biotic Index (BI)
(Plafkin et al., 1989; Mackie, 2000)
........... is a more rigorous bioassessment technique based on specific (i.e., species) levels mostly in order to allow detection of more subtle degrees of impairment!
The index has been modified to include non-arthropod species as well on the basis of the biotic index used by the State of New York (Bode et al., 1991, 1996). Although the HBI may be applicable for other types of pollutants, it has only been evaluated for organic pollutants. The formula for calculating the Biotic Index is:
BI = Σ(xi*ti)/(n), where
xi = number of individuals within a species
ti = tolerance value of a species
n = total number of organisms in the sample (100)
The following table is a general guide to the water quality of streams. Replicate samples, or both spring and fall samples, will add to the confidence of the evaluation.
Table-3: Evaluation of water quality using biotic index values of samples collected in March, April, May, September, and early October (Hilsenhoff, 1987)
|Biotic Index||Water Quality||
Degree of Organic Pollution|
|0.00-3.50||Excellent||No apparent organic pollution|
|3.51-4.50||Very good||Possible slight organic pollution|
|4.51-5.50||Good||Some organic pollution|
|5.51-6.50||Fair||Fairly significant organic pollution|
|6.51-7.50||Fairly poor||Significant organic pollution|
|7.51-8.50||Poor||Very significant organic pollution|
|8.51-10.00||Very poor||Severe organic pollution|
Note: Hilsenhoff’s biotic index (1987) may require regional modification in some instances.
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