Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Massachusetts
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Kenney, M.A., A.E. Sutton-Grier, R.F. Smith, and S.E. Gresens. 2009. Benthic macroinvertebrates as indicators of water quality: The intersection of science and policy. Terrestrial Arthropod Reviews 2:99-128.


This review addresses the intersection of water quality policy and benthic macroinvertebrates. Specifically, we examine the role that stream macroinvertebrates have played or could play in informing water quality decisions given the current policy framework, using this framework as the organizational structure for the review. Macroinvertebrates, as biological indicators of stream water quality, can be utilized to identify impaired waters, determine aquatic life stressors, set pollutant load reductions, and indicate improvement. We present both current approaches as well as innovative approaches to identify macroinvertebrates and aquatic life stressors. We also discuss an example of the environmental management approach, specifically, how macroinvertebrates can be used to indicate the relative success of stream restoration. For policymakers, this review serves to illuminate opportunities and limitations of using benthic macroinvertebrates as indicators of water quality. For entomologists, this review highlights policy-relevant research questions that would further aid the classification of impaired waters, the identification of stressors, or the management of stream ecosystems.