SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1989

Field Techniques for Determining the Effects of Toxic Substances on Benthic Macroinvertebrates in Rocky-Bottomed Streams


The heterogeneity of shallow lotic environments presents formidable obstacles for comparative evaluations that are intended to quantify the effects of toxic substances on benthic macroinvertebrates. A review of the literature indicates that contemporary hazard assessments are conducted by the same techniques that have been used since the early 1970s. Improved design techniques that are available, but are not being used, include: narrow habitat stratification, small sampling units, and selected study populations. A multitude of innovative sampling methods have been developed for these design techniques. The importance of using fine mesh nets and sieves has been recognized, but even finer mesh sizes may be necessary if the entire benthic community must be quantified. A better design for drift studies is to take numerous replicate samples at one time shortly after dark, rather than taking fewer samples at periodic intervals throughout a diel cycle. Secondary production measurements offer advantages of greater precision and ecological meaning. These advances have been developed largely in response to needs for studying benthic macroinvertebrates in basic aquatic ecology. The same needs exist in hazard assessment, but the advances in techniques have not been put into use in this area of applied aquatic ecology.

Author Information

Voshell, JR
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA
Layton, RJ
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA
Hiner, SW
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA
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Developed by Committee: E47
Pages: 134–155
DOI: 10.1520/STP16781S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5088-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1253-7