Biomonitoring with macroinvertebrate communities in Italy: What happened to our past and what is the future?


  • Tiziano Bo DISIT, University of Piemonte Orientale, Italy.
  • Alberto Doretto DBIOS, University of Turin, Italy.
  • Alex Laini Life Sciences Department, University of di Parma, Italy.
  • Francesca Bona DBIOS, University of Turin, Italy.
  • Stefano Fenoglio | DISIT, University of Piemonte Orientale, Italy.


This paper reviews the history and development of biological water quality assessment using macroinvertebrates in Italy. Italy was one of the first European countries to officially adopt a biomonitoring system based on benthic invertebrates, the Indice Biotico Esteso (IBE). After the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC, this method was replaced by the “Standardisation of River Classifications_Intercalibration Common Metrics” (STAR_ICM) index, which met the new requirements. As this method has been employed for some years, it could be useful to take a provisional stock and to provide some suggestions to ameliorate the current biomonitoring approach, also trying to minimize the break with past practices and better harmonize the history of biomonitoring in Italy. One of the most evident difference between past and current approach is related to the amount of time and effort required in the application of the two methods. STAR_ICMi is a scientifically rigorous and modern method, but much more time-consuming and challenging in both field and laboratory efforts. This fact has various disturbing practical repercussions, i.e., the environmental agencies have generally reduced the number of sampling stations routinely monitored during the year. The aim of our work is to propose some operational changes that would help to simplify and expedite the monitoring process. In particular, regarding fieldwork, we focus on the time and effort required for macroinvertebrate collection, while for laboratory activity we suggest a reshaping of the requested taxonomic detail. Moreover, in this way the data provided by the new approach could be compared with the long time series available from the previous application of IBE.



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Aquatic bio-monitoring: Lessons from the past, challenges for the future
IBE, STAR_ICMi, WFD 2000/60, environmental quality assessment, running waters.
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How to Cite
Bo T, Doretto A, Laini A, Bona F, Fenoglio S. Biomonitoring with macroinvertebrate communities in Italy: What happened to our past and what is the future?. J Limnol [Internet]. 2016 Oct. 7 [cited 2021 Oct. 18];76(s1). Available from: