The application and testing of diatom-based indices of stream water quality in Chinhoyi Town, Zimbabwe
Aquatic ecosystem biomonitoring tools are largely lacking for many developing countries, resulting in adoption of tools developed from other countries/regions. In many instances, however, the applicability of adopted tools to the new system has not been explicitly evaluated. The objective of this study was to test the applicability of foreign diatom-based water quality assessment indices to urban streams in Zimbabwe, with the view of stimulating research to develop improved approaches for assessing ecological integrity of lotic systems in the country. The study evaluated the relationship between measured water quality variables and diatom index scores. The study found a high degree of concordance between water quality variables and diatom index scores. Thus, the indices proved useful in providing an indication of the quality of the investigated waters. This could be attributed to the occurrence of many widely distributed diatom species that have similar environmental tolerances to those recorded elsewhere. Diatom indices which exhibited consistent classifications and strong correlations with water quality variables such as Trophic Index, Saprobic Index, Pampean Diatom Index, Biological Index of Water Quality and Leclercq Index are recommended for use in the country. However, ecological requirements of some diatom species from Zimbabwe need to be clarified and incorporated in a diatom-based water quality assessment protocol unique to the country.
Keywords: biological monitoring, pollution, benthic diatoms, biotic indices