Water Quality Assessment Based on the Macroinvertebrate Fauna - the Pcinja River Case Study

Slavevska-Stamenković Valentina1, Paunović Momir2, Miljanović Branko3, Kostov Vasil4, Ristovska Milica1 and Miteva Donka1

1 Faculty of Natural Science and Mathematics, Institute of Biology, P.O. Box 162, 1000 Skopje, Macedonia, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
2 Institute for Biological Research, 142 Despota Stefana Boulevard, 11060 Belgrade, Serbia
3 Faculty of Natural Science and Mathematics, Institute of Biology, Novi Sad, Serbia
4 Institute of Animal Science - Fisheries Department, Ile Ilievski 92-a, 1000 Skopje, R. of Macedonia


The aim of the current study was a rapid assessment of the ecological status of the river Pcinja, based on macroinvertebrate fauna. During the summer period of 2009, hydrobiological research was conducted at eight sampling sites along the entire river course. Severe deterioration of the water quality was detected at the mouth of the Kumanovska River (the right tributary of the Pcinja River). Although family level assessment was applied, the assessment results were found to be satisfactory. The presented approach (using a standardised sampling methodology and selected indices) represents an attempt aimed at contributing to the upgrading of the water quality monitoring practice in the Republic of Macedonia. Analyses of selected family level indices for macroinvertebrates indicates that the procedure could be used for status assessment of small to medium size rivers in Macedonia, but certain modification is needed to improve the resolution of metrics.
Keywords: macroinvertebrates, water status, EPT, BMWP, ASPT, Pcinja River, Republic of Macedonia.




Significant disturbance of the water ecosystems in the Republic of Macedonia is evident. Water ecosystems are under the influence of three of the most significant pressures: municipal and industrial wastewater discharge and water runoff from agricultural areas, but also hydromorphological alteration. With regard to the status of the aquatic ecosystem in the Republic of Macedonia, the most alarming situation was recorded in the rivers Vardar, Bregalnica, Crna River and Pcinja River (Sapkarev, 1990; Kungulovski, 1994; Kostov et al., 2010).

In the last decades, the scientific community has demonstrated a particular interest in river ecosystem monitoring, with the ultimate goal of establishing an effective ecological status assessment procedure and pursuing manners, methods of control, and proposed solutions for water protection. Since 2000, when the Water Framework Directive (WFD,  2000) came into force, biological assessment of water quality has become essential for successful implementation of the monitoring system. The use of biological quality elements (BQE) in monitoring studies has certain advantages compared to traditional methods, where physical and chemical parameters are most commonly used as water quality indicators. Organisms continuously live in the aquatic environment; hence, understandably, they react to all changes, including the influence of many pollutants and those changes reflect not only the current situation, but also the events, including the pressures, over a certain period of time.

Improving the water status is an imperative of all public and non-governmental organisations dealing with the environment, and this objective can be realised with a well defined strategy. The WFD represents the basis for water management in the European Union (EU). The general aim of the Directive is to achieve good water status for all water bodies within the territory of the EU by year 2015 (Pont et al., 2006). WFD has underlined the significance of biological parameters in the evaluation of the status of aquatic ecosystems. According to Annex V of the WFD, algae, macrophytes, macroinvertebrates and fish fauna are relevant BQE in the monitoring studies.

As a result of the requirements of the EU WFD, fresh water ecologists are addressing the relationship between BQE relevant to the WFD and environmental variables in order to determine an ecological status based upon comparative measures of composition and abundance between disturbed and reference conditions (Annex V of the WFD) (Sandin and Johnson, 2000; Springe et al., 2006; Pont et al., 2006; Flinders et al., 2008; Benejam et al., 2010). Parallel with the ecological status (BQE, hydromorphology, physicochemical parameters and basin specific pollutants), chemical status assessment is obligatory for a general water status evaluation, which additionally concurs with the resolution of the monitoring system.

Among the BQE, macrozoobenthos is noted as sensitive to water status alteration, and macroinvertebrates are justifiably the most frequently employed biological elements in monitoring studies (Morse et al., 2007).  Macroinvertebrates are found in all aquatic habitats, they are less mobile than most other groups of aquatic organisms, they are easily collected, and most have relatively long periods of development in the aquatic environment. Thus, macroinvertebrate species should reflect deleterious events that have occurred in the aquatic environment during any stage of their development (Cairns and Pratt, 1993).

Despite the European trend, biological parameters such as macrozoobenthos, are a neglected element in the monitoring system of numerous countries, including the Republic of Macedonia. As a candidate country for the European Union, the Republic of Macedonia is under obligation to harmonise its national legislation with the European Directive (WFD, 2000), which includes the harmonisation of the national monitoring system.

The Pcinja River is a good model system for testing the water quality assessment methodology, since different segment types are available and different levels of pressure are to be found along the watercourse. The aim of this study was an evaluation of water quality based on macrozoobenthos. In addition, the effectiveness of used biological indices was discussed.