Efficiency of the SASS4 rapid bioassessment protocol in determining river health: a case study on the Mhlathuze River, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  • P Vos
  • V Wepener
  • DP Cyrus


The purpose of the study was to verify the ability of the South African Scoring System version 4 (SASS4), to assess the health of aquatic ecosystems. The macroinvertebrate community attributes of the Mhlathuze River (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) were studied by applying the SASS4 rapid bioassessment method. In testing the effect of spatial and temporal variability in community structure on SASS4 scores it was found that there was a stronger spatial than a temporal effect. It was determined that of the indices used in association with SASS4, the biotic indices (average score per taxon, total score and number of taxa) reflected changes in community structure, but the abiotic habitat quality index did not. It was found that qualitative family-level data provided an adequate classification of sites for use in routine biomonitoring. Ambiguous results were obtained with respect to the importance of measuring abundance during routine biomonitoring. No definite conclusion with respect to the ability of the SASS4 to reflect physical-chemical water quality changes could be drawn from the results obtained in this study. SASS4 was able to reflect the effect of the tidal push from the Mhlathuze Estuary, but this marine influence probably masked less pronounced effects exerted by the remainder of the physical-chemical variables that were investigated.

WaterSA Vol.28(1) 2002: 13-22

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0378-4738