Improving the performance of the EPT Index to accommodate multiple stressors in Afrotropical streams
The EPT index (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera) may be skewed by the wide tolerance to multiple stressors of the Baetid, Caenid and Hydropsychid families, which affects the performance of the EPT index as an indicator of multiple stressors in aquatic ecosystems. The effect of the BCH families on the EPT index was evaluated and alternatives were considered to improve its performance. The hypothesis that the removal of the BCH families improves sensitivity of the EPT index to human-induced stressors in streams and rivers was tested. Macroinvertebrates were collected in January–March 2009 at 22 sites in the Nyando and Nzoia Rivers, Lake Victoria basin, Kenya. Nine derivatives and modifications of the EPT index were tested for responses to a disturbance gradient, ranked into three condition categories (reference, intermediate and impaired). The sensitivity of the proportionate abundance derivative of the EPT index improved when the BCH families were removed, whereas that of the richness derivative improved marginally. Other modifications considered performed poorly when compared with the EPT-BCH metrics. Wide distribution of the BCH across all sites, irrespective of the level of disturbance, reduced the sensitivity of the EPT index in the studied streams. The removal of the BCH families enhanced the sensitivity of the index to multiple stressors in Afrotropical streams and rivers.
Keywords: biomonitoring, EPT index, macroinvertebrates, urban streams, water pollution, water quality