Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Wadeable Streams and Rivers: Periphyton, Benthic Macroinvertebrates, and Fish
United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water
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In December 1986, U.S. EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water initiated a major study of the Agency's surface water monitoring activities. The resulting report, entitled "Surface Water Monitoring: A Framework for Change" (U.S. EPA 1987), emphasizes the restructuring of existing monitoring programs to better address the Agency's current priorities, e.g., toxics, nonpoint source impacts, and documentation of "environmental results". The study also provides specific recommendations on effecting the necessary changes. Principal among these are: 1. To issue guidance on cost-effective approaches to problem identification and trend assessment; 2. To accelerate the development and application of promising biological monitoring techniques. In response to these recommendations, the Assessment and Watershed Protection Division developed the rapid bioassessment protocols (RBPs) designed to provide basic aquatic life data for water quality management purposes such as problem screening, site ranking, and trend monitoring, and produced a document in 1989 (Plafkin et al. 1989). Although none of the protocols were meant to provide the rigor of fully comprehensive studies, each was designed to supply pertinent, cost-effective information when applied int he appropriate context. As the technical guidance for biocriteria has been developed by EPA, states have found these protocols useful as a framework for their monitoring programs. This document was meant to have a self-corrective process as the science advances; the implementation by state water resource agencies has contributed to refinement of the original RBPs for regional specificity. This revision reflects the advancement in bioassessment methods since 1989 and provides and updated compilation of the most cost-effective and scientifically valid approaches.