Indicative status assessment of the Velika Morava River based on aquatic macroinvertebrates

 Vanja Marković1, Ana Atanacković1, Bojana Tubić1, Božica Vasiljević1, Vladica Simić2, Jelena Tomović1, Vera Nikolić3 and Momir Paunović1

1 University of Belgrade, Institute for Biological Research "Siniša Stanković", Despota Stefana 142, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia; e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

2 University of Kragujevac, Institute of Biology and Ecology, Faculty of Science, Radoja Domanovića 12, 34000 Kragujevac, Serbia

3 University of Belgrade, Faculty of Biology, Department of Zoology, Studentski trg 16, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia



The objective of this study is to provide an indicative ecological status assessment of the Velika Morava River, based on aquatic macroinvertebrates. Eight metrics were used for this evaluation – Saprobic Index (SI), Biological Monitoring Working Party (BMWP) score, Average Score Per Taxon (ASPT), Number of Ephemeroptera, Plecotera, Trichoptera (EPT) taxa, percentage participation of Oligochaeta in the total macroinvertebrate community (%-Oligochaeta), total number of taxa, number of genera, and number of families. A total of 84 taxa have been identified. Based on analyses of the selected metrics, the indicative status of the Velika Morava River could be assessed as moderate to poor (Class III-IV), which corresponds to the water quality assessment based on the evaluation provided by national water quality monitoring for the 1999-2008 period. There is still a need for system improvement, which will be the topic of further research.

Keywords: aquatic macroinvertebrates, ecological status, community structure metrics, large rivers





The aim of this paper is to test a system of ecological status assessment, in particular a component based on aquatic macroinvertebrates as a quality element, proposed to be used for running waters in Serbia. The system was designed according to the recommendations provided by the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD 2000). The objective of the study is to provide an indicative ecological status assessment, since it is based on a limited number of samples, as well as on one quality element only. To provide a comprehensive ecological status assessment, as required by the WFD (2000), systematic monitoring is needed, covering all relevant biological quality elements, as well as parameters supporting biological assessment (selected physico-chemical and hydromorphological parameters).

The WFD (2000) regulates all water management issues and provides a new approach to water status monitoring. The surface water status has to be evaluated based on the ecological and chemical status of the surface water body. It is the general expression of the status of a body of surface water, determined by the poorer of its ecological and chemical status. Ecological status is an expression of the quality of the structure and functioning of aquatic ecosystems. It is assessed based on the deviation of selected biological (community) parameters from the reference situation (conditions recorded within the surface water bodies that are "natural", or "near natural", more precisely those that are not under the influence of anthropogenic pressures).

Implementation of the WFD (2000) in Serbia began in 2003 (Ninković et al., 2010), and the basis for an effective system for surface water status evaluation has been established (Paunović et al. 2007, Ninković et al., 2010).

The Velika Morava River is 175 km long and it originates from the Zapadna Morava and the Južna Morava rivers. According to the catchment area (38,000 km²) and the mean annual flow (230 m³ s-1, gauge station Ljubičevo, near the confluence with the Danube - Annual Water Quality Report (1999-2008)), the Velika Morava is one of the major tributaries of the Danube. Over 95% of the basin is located within the territory of the Republic of Serbia.

The basin area is densely populated and the river is under the influence of various types of pollution (organic, nutrient, and pressure from various other substances originating from industry), as well as hydromorphological pressures (cutting off of meanders, shortening, channelling, and gravel and sand extraction).

The aquatic life in the Velika Morava River has hardly been explored. According to available data, the river has been studied only as part of broader research (Simić, 1996, Paunović, 2007), covering the wider area.

Materials and Methods

Sampling was performed in July, August, October and November of 2010, at five sampling sites: VM1 (Varvarin), VM2 (Ćuprija), VM3 (Bagrdan), VM4 (Markovac Bridge) and VM5 (Ljubičevo Bridge) (Table 1, Figure 1). Semi-quantitative sampling was conducted using a hand net (25x25 cm, 500 µm mesh size). A multi-habitat sampling procedure (Hering, 2004) was applied.