Cook book for the development of a Multimetric Index for biological condition of aquatic ecosystems: Experiences from the European AQEM and STAR projects and related initiatives

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The requirements of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD), aimed at an integrative assessment methodology for evaluating the ecological status of water bodies are frequently being achieved through multimetric techniques, i.e. by combining several indices, which address different stressors or different components of the biocoenosis. This document suggests a normative methodology for the development and application of Multimetric Indices as a tool with which to evaluate the ecological status of running waters. The methodology has been derived from and tested on a European scale within the framework of the AQEM and STAR research projects, and projects on the implementation of the WFD in Austria and Germany. We suggest a procedure for the development of Multimetric Indices, which is composed of the following steps: (1) selection of the most suitable form of a Multimetric Index; (2) metric selection, broken down into metric calculation, exclusion of numerically unsuitable metrics, definition of a stressor gradient, correlation of stressor gradients and metrics, selection of candidate metrics, selection of core metrics, distribution of metrics within the metric types, definition of upper and lower anchors and scaling; (3) generation of a Multimetric Index (general or stressor-specific approach); (4) setting class boundaries; (5) interpretation of results. Each step is described by examples.

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