Special Issue "Advances in Ecological Water System Modeling: Integration and Leanification as a Basis for Application in Environmental Management"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Quality and Contamination".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (27 March 2018).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Peter Goethals
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Animal Sciences and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
Interests: aquatic ecology; monitoring; assessment; ecological modelling; water quality management; ecotechnology; decision support tools; sustainability; ISO standards related to water monitoring and assessment documents via the BELGAQUA and B-IWA organisations
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Marie Anne Eurie Forio
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Animal Sciences and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
Interests: river management; biodiversity; water quality; ecosystem services; river basin modelling and analysis; Bayesian belief networks; natural retention measures; nature-based solutions; ecotechniques; sustainable islands; sustainable development
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Water system models and ecological models both have a long history. Nevertheless, the practical use of water ecosystem models for decision-making in water management remains very limited and confined to specific applications. The main reasons for this are a high model uncertainty, the focus on too-specific subparts (e.g., merely hydrological, chemical or biological), the high complexity of the (use of the) models, the irrelevance of the possible simulations, or a combination of these elements. Therefore, this Special Issue is seeking success stories in which models have been developed that integrate relevant key components, and/or simplified the models or the user-interface in such a way that these become more relevant and convenient to be used by water managers.

Contributions are most welcome that present ecological water system models that are based on the integration of various components of the water system, including its uses and impact sources (e.g., relation with land use, urban development and infrastructure implementation, as well as ecosystem services). Moreover, the integration of different methods (combining modeling techniques, integration of optimization tools, use of stakeholders and users during model development and validation) and sources of data and information (field data with expert knowledge for instance) can be main topics of contributions. In addition, tools that enhance the understanding by the users (transparency), or the user convenience of the interface and the ease for the execution and comparison of simulations are explicitly part of this call. Finally, more conceptual approaches and reviews that can contribute to the overall improvement of the analysis of uncertainty, model development and general applicability in water management are moreover highly relevant for this Special Issue.

Prof. Dr. Peter Goethals
Dr. Marie Anne Eurie Forio
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Ecological water system modeling
  • Integrated models
  • Modelling of ecosystem services
  • Water, Energy and Food Nexus
  • Hybrid models
  • Integration of field data and expert knowledge
  • Integration of datadriven and process-based approaches
  • User-oriented model development
  • Lean model development
  • Model simplification
  • Model transparancy
  • Model relevance
  • Model uncertainty analysis and assessment
  • Model quality control and certification
  • User interface design
  • Model simulation
  • Model evaluation
  • Decision-support in water management

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Advances in Ecological Water System Modeling: Integration and Leanification as a Basis for Application in Environmental Management
Water 2018, 10(9), 1216; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w10091216 - 08 Sep 2018
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1467
Abstract
The art of applied modeling is determining an appropriate balance between integration of more processes and variables for the sake of increasing representativeness and reliability of the models, while also avoiding too long development and simulation times. The latter can be achieved via [...] Read more.
The art of applied modeling is determining an appropriate balance between integration of more processes and variables for the sake of increasing representativeness and reliability of the models, while also avoiding too long development and simulation times. The latter can be achieved via leanification, which can be based on reducing the number of variables and processes by focusing on key processes in the system and its management, but can be as well induced by using simplified methods for the description of relations among variables (such as regression and probabilistic methods) to, for instance, reduce the simulation time. In this way, integration and leanification can be combined and together contribute to models that are more relevant and convenient for use by water managers. In particular, it is crucial to find a good balance between the integration level of ecological processes answering environmental challenges in a relevant manner and costs for data collection and model development (and application). Full article
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Research

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Article
On the Relationship between Aquatic Plant Stem Characteristics and Drag Force: Is a Modeling Application Possible?
Water 2018, 10(5), 540; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w10050540 - 24 Apr 2018
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2352
Abstract
This paper presents a basic model that shows the relationship between the diameter of a stem and its flexural rigidity. The model was developed from experimental measurements of biomechanical traits (i.e., tensile and bending traits like maximum forces, stresses, moduli of elasticity, flexural [...] Read more.
This paper presents a basic model that shows the relationship between the diameter of a stem and its flexural rigidity. The model was developed from experimental measurements of biomechanical traits (i.e., tensile and bending traits like maximum forces, stresses, moduli of elasticity, flexural rigidity, strain) of three freshwater macrophyte species (Elodea canadensis Michx., Potamogeton pectinatus L., and P. crispus L.), reflecting the seasonal changes in plant biomechanics throughout the vegetative season. These were obtained with the use of a bench-top testing machine in 2016 and 2017. The presented calculations are based on the ratio of drag-to-bending forces, in which the flexural rigidity plays a key role. The proposed model has the form EI = adb, and two approaches based on a regression analysis were applied to determine the parameters of the model—a and b. In the first method, the parameters were identified separately for each day of measurement, while in the second method, the coefficient b was calculated for all data from all days as a unified number for individual plants. The results suggest that coefficient b may provide information about the proportion of changes in drag forces depending on plant stiffness. The values of this coefficient were associated with the shape of the stem cross-section. The more circular the cross-section, the closer the value of the parameter was to 1. The parameter values were 1.60 for E. canadensis, 1.98 for P. pectinatus, and 2.46 for P. crispus. Moreover, this value also depended on the density of the cross-section structure. Most of the results showed that with an increase in stem diameter, the ratio between the drag and bending forces decreased, which led to fewer differences between these two forces. The model application may be introduced in many laboratory measurements of flow–biota interactions as well as in aquatic plant management applications. The implementation of these results in control methods for hydrophytes may help in mitigating floods caused by increases to a river channel’s resistance due to the occurrence of plants. Full article
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Article
A Sensitivity Analysis of Impacts of Conservation Practices on Water Quality in L’Anguille River Watershed, Arkansas
Water 2018, 10(4), 443; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w10040443 - 08 Apr 2018
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2408
Abstract
Assessing the performance of appropriate agricultural conservation practices (CPs) frequently relies on the use of simulation models as a cost-effective tool instead of depending solely on the monitoring of water quality at individual field and watershed levels. This study evaluates the predicted impacts [...] Read more.
Assessing the performance of appropriate agricultural conservation practices (CPs) frequently relies on the use of simulation models as a cost-effective tool instead of depending solely on the monitoring of water quality at individual field and watershed levels. This study evaluates the predicted impacts of several CPs on nutrient and sediment loss at the hydrological response unit scale in the L’Anguille River Watershed, which is a watershed identified as a “focus watershed” under the Mississippi River Basin healthy watershed Initiative (MRBI) program. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool model was calibrated and validated between 1998–2005 and 2006–2012, respectively for flow, sediment, total phosphorus, and nitrate nitrogen. Out of the seven MRBI CPs modeled in this study, the highest reduction in sediment (80%) and nutrient (58% for total phosphorus and 16% for total nitrogen) was predicted for the critical area planting practice, followed by filter strip, irrigation land leveling, grade stabilization structure, irrigation pipeline, nutrient management, and irrigation water management. Some of the predicted impacts conflicted with expected CP performance. The study underscores the importance of the proper formulation of CP algorithms in using simulation models for predicting impacts on water quality. Full article
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Article
Model-Based Analysis of the Potential of Macroinvertebrates as Indicators for Microbial Pathogens in Rivers
Water 2018, 10(4), 375; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w10040375 - 24 Mar 2018
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2110
Abstract
The quality of water prior to its use for drinking, farming or recreational purposes must comply with several physicochemical and microbiological standards to safeguard society and the environment. In order to satisfy these standards, expensive analyses and highly trained personnel in laboratories are [...] Read more.
The quality of water prior to its use for drinking, farming or recreational purposes must comply with several physicochemical and microbiological standards to safeguard society and the environment. In order to satisfy these standards, expensive analyses and highly trained personnel in laboratories are required. Whereas macroinvertebrates have been used as ecological indicators to review the health of aquatic ecosystems. In this research, the relationship between microbial pathogens and macrobenthic invertebrate taxa was examined in the Machangara River located in the southern Andes of Ecuador, in which 33 sites, according to their land use, were chosen to collect physicochemical, microbiological and biological parameters. Decision tree models (DTMs) were used to generate rules that link the presence and abundance of some benthic families to microbial pathogen standards. The aforementioned DTMs provide an indirect, approximate, and quick way of checking the fulfillment of Ecuadorian regulations for water use related to microbial pathogens. The models built and optimized with the WEKA package, were evaluated based on both statistical and ecological criteria to make them as clear and simple as possible. As a result, two different and reliable models were obtained, which could be used as proxy indicators in a preliminary assessment of pollution of microbial pathogens in rivers. The DTMs can be easily applied by staff with minimal training in the identification of the sensitive taxa selected by the models. The presence of selected macroinvertebrate taxa in conjunction with the decision trees can be used as a screening tool to evaluate sites that require additional follow up analyses to confirm whether microbial water quality standards are met. Full article
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Article
A Closer Look on Spatiotemporal Variations of Dissolved Oxygen in Waste Stabilization Ponds Using Mixed Models
Water 2018, 10(2), 201; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w10020201 - 13 Feb 2018
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 2050
Abstract
Dissolved oxygen is an essential controlling factor in the performance of facultative and maturation ponds since both take many advantages of algal photosynthetic oxygenation. The rate of this photosynthesis strongly depends on the time during the day and the location in a pond [...] Read more.
Dissolved oxygen is an essential controlling factor in the performance of facultative and maturation ponds since both take many advantages of algal photosynthetic oxygenation. The rate of this photosynthesis strongly depends on the time during the day and the location in a pond system, whose roles have been overlooked in previous guidelines of pond operation and maintenance (O&M). To elucidate these influences, a linear mixed effect model (LMM) was built on the data collected from three intensive sampling campaigns in a waste stabilization pond in Cuenca, Ecuador. Within two parallel lines of facultative and maturation ponds, nine locations were sampled at two depths in each pond. In general, the output of the mixed model indicated high spatial autocorrelations of data and wide spatiotemporal variations of the oxygen level among and within the ponds. Particularly, different ponds showed different patterns of oxygen dynamics, which were associated with many factors including flow behavior, sludge accumulation, algal distribution, influent fluctuation, and pond function. Moreover, a substantial temporal change in the oxygen level between day and night, from zero to above 20 mg O2·L−1, was observed. Algal photosynthetic activity appeared to be the main reason for these variations in the model, as it was facilitated by intensive solar radiation at high altitude. Since these diurnal and spatial patterns can supply a large amount of useful information on pond performance, insightful recommendations on dissolved oxygen (DO) monitoring and regulations were delivered. More importantly, as a mixed model showed high predictive performance, i.e., high goodness-of-fit (R2 of 0.94), low values of mean absolute error, we recommended this advanced statistical technique as an effective tool for dealing with high autocorrelation of data in pond systems. Full article
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Article
Using DPSIR and Balances to Support Water Governance
Water 2018, 10(2), 118; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w10020118 - 29 Jan 2018
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 1945
Abstract
The DPSIR framework has proven to be an effective communication tool, but has become subject to criticism upon increasing practical application. It is assumed that this is the consequence of the combination of terminological unclarity, absence of a methodological description for analyzing disturbances, [...] Read more.
The DPSIR framework has proven to be an effective communication tool, but has become subject to criticism upon increasing practical application. It is assumed that this is the consequence of the combination of terminological unclarity, absence of a methodological description for analyzing disturbances, and a confined conceptual basis when dealing with complex environmental issues. DPSIR has been embedded within the broader conceptual Pentatope Model (PTM), by making use of an ‘interface’ called GASI. GASI, which means Governance by Actor–Subject Impact Assessment, deals explicitly with governance as a framework and impact analysis as a process. The result is an extended version of DPSIR. Illustrated by means of a water balance, the importance of a combined PTM–GASI–DPSIR tool for impact assessments to support evidence-based governance is shown. Full article
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Article
Assessing the Ecological Relevance of Organic Discharge Limits for Constructed Wetlands by Means of a Model-Based Analysis
Water 2018, 10(1), 63; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w10010063 - 11 Jan 2018
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2378
Abstract
Polder watercourses within agricultural areas are affected by high chemical oxygen demand (COD) and biological oxygen demand (BOD5) concentrations, due to intensive farming activities and runoff. Practical cases have shown that constructed wetlands (CWs) are eco-friendly and cost-effective treatment systems which [...] Read more.
Polder watercourses within agricultural areas are affected by high chemical oxygen demand (COD) and biological oxygen demand (BOD5) concentrations, due to intensive farming activities and runoff. Practical cases have shown that constructed wetlands (CWs) are eco-friendly and cost-effective treatment systems which can reduce high levels of organic and nutrient pollution from agricultural discharges. However, accumulated recalcitrant organic matter, originated by in-situ sources or elements of CWs (i.e., plants or microbial detritus), limits the fulfilment of current COD discharge threshold. Thus, to evaluate its relevance regarding rivers ecosystem health preservation, we analysed the response of bio-indicators, the Multimetric Macroinvertebrate Index Flanders (MMIF) and the occurrence of organic pollution sensitive taxa towards organic pollutants. For this purpose, statistical models were developed based on collected data in polder watercourses and CWs located in Flanders (Belgium). Results showed that, given the correlation between COD and BOD5, both parameters can be used to indicate the ecological and water quality conditions. However, the variability of the MMIF and the occurrence of sensitive species are explained better by BOD5, which captures a major part of their common effect. Whereas, recalcitrant COD and the interaction among other physico-chemical variables indicate a minor variability on the bio-indicators. Based on these outcomes we suggest a critical re-evaluation of current COD thresholds and moreover, consider other emerging technologies determining organic pollution levels, since this could support the feasibility of the implementation of CWs to tackle agricultural pollution. Full article
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Article
Establishment and Application of Wetlands Ecosystem Services and Sustainable Ecological Evaluation Indicators
Water 2017, 9(3), 197; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w9030197 - 08 Mar 2017
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1774
Abstract
Gaomei wetlands are national Taiwanese coastal wetlands. Over the past few years, they have grown into an important water bird habitat and popular bird-watching location. However, the rapid growth in tourism has begun to affect the environmental quality in the Gaomei wetlands. This [...] Read more.
Gaomei wetlands are national Taiwanese coastal wetlands. Over the past few years, they have grown into an important water bird habitat and popular bird-watching location. However, the rapid growth in tourism has begun to affect the environmental quality in the Gaomei wetlands. This study combined ecosystem services (ES) and ecological footprint (EF) assessments to evaluate the sustainability status according to the features of each ecosystem service for the different Gaomei wetlands land uses. The results found that (a) the total Gaomei wetlands ecosystem service value increased from 59.24 million TWD in 2008 to 98.10 million TWD in 2015, and the ecosystem service function was continuously improving; (b) the EF increased by 56.12% over 8 years; and (c) there was a negative growth rate of 106.54% in the ecological deficit (ED) in the sustainable ecological evaluation indicators (SEEI). The ecological footprint index (EFI) in 2015 was at Level 4 at 1.02, and the environmental sustainability index (ESI) was at Level 3 at 0.49. Results show that Gaomei wetlands have a low sustainability; therefore, the local, regional, and national governments need to implement regulations to strictly control the Gaomei wetlands land use. This study demonstrated that ES and EF theory application can give an objective guidance to decision-makers to ensure that wetlands eco-security can be maintained at safe levels. Full article
Article
Putting Flow–Ecology Relationships into Practice: A Decision-Support System to Assess Fish Community Response to Water-Management Scenarios
Water 2017, 9(3), 196; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w9030196 - 08 Mar 2017
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 3246
Abstract
This paper presents a conceptual framework to operationalize flow–ecology relationships into decision-support systems of practical use to water-resource managers, who are commonly tasked with balancing multiple competing socioeconomic and environmental priorities. We illustrate this framework with a case study, whereby fish community responses [...] Read more.
This paper presents a conceptual framework to operationalize flow–ecology relationships into decision-support systems of practical use to water-resource managers, who are commonly tasked with balancing multiple competing socioeconomic and environmental priorities. We illustrate this framework with a case study, whereby fish community responses to various water-management scenarios were predicted in a partially regulated river system at a local watershed scale. This case study simulates management scenarios based on interactive effects of dam operation protocols, withdrawals for municipal water supply, effluent discharges from wastewater treatment, and inter-basin water transfers. Modeled streamflow was integrated with flow–ecology relationships relating hydrologic departure from reference conditions to fish species richness, stratified by trophic, reproductive, and habitat characteristics. Adding a hypothetical new water-withdrawal site was predicted to increase the frequency of low-flow conditions with adverse effects for several fish groups. Imposition of new reservoir release requirements was predicted to enhance flow and fish species richness immediately downstream of the reservoir, but these effects were dissipated further downstream. The framework presented here can be used to translate flow–ecology relationships into evidence-based management by developing decision-support systems for conservation of riverine biodiversity while optimizing water availability for human use. Full article
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Article
A Methodology to Model Environmental Preferences of EPT Taxa in the Machangara River Basin (Ecuador)
Water 2017, 9(3), 195; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w9030195 - 08 Mar 2017
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 3227
Abstract
Rivers have been frequently assessed based on the presence of the Ephemeroptera— Plecoptera—Trichoptera (EPT) taxa in order to determine the water quality status and develop conservation programs. This research evaluates the abiotic preferences of three families of the EPT taxa Baetidae, Leptoceridae and [...] Read more.
Rivers have been frequently assessed based on the presence of the Ephemeroptera— Plecoptera—Trichoptera (EPT) taxa in order to determine the water quality status and develop conservation programs. This research evaluates the abiotic preferences of three families of the EPT taxa Baetidae, Leptoceridae and Perlidae in the Machangara River Basin located in the southern Andes of Ecuador. With this objective, using generalized linear models (GLMs), we analyzed the relation between the probability of occurrence of these pollution-sensitive macroinvertebrates families and physicochemical water quality conditions. The explanatory variables of the constructed GLMs differed substantially among the taxa, as did the preference range of the common predictors. In total, eight variables had a substantial influence on the outcomes of the three models. For choosing the best predictors of each studied taxa and for evaluation of the accuracy of its models, the Akaike information criterion (AIC) was used. The results indicated that the GLMs can be applied to predict either the presence or the absence of the invertebrate taxa and moreover, to clarify the relation to the environmental conditions of the stream. In this manner, these modeling tools can help to determine key variables for river restoration and protection management. Full article
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Review

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Review
Freshwater Ecosystem Services in Mining Regions: Modelling Options for Policy Development Support
Water 2018, 10(4), 531; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w10040531 - 23 Apr 2018
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3085
Abstract
The ecosystem services (ES) approach offers an integrated perspective of social-ecological systems, suitable for holistic assessments of mining impacts. Yet for ES models to be policy-relevant, methodological consensus in mining contexts is needed. We review articles assessing ES in mining areas focusing on [...] Read more.
The ecosystem services (ES) approach offers an integrated perspective of social-ecological systems, suitable for holistic assessments of mining impacts. Yet for ES models to be policy-relevant, methodological consensus in mining contexts is needed. We review articles assessing ES in mining areas focusing on freshwater components and policy support potential. Twenty-six articles were analysed concerning (i) methodological complexity (data types, number of parameters, processes and ecosystem–human integration level) and (ii) potential applicability for policy development (communication of uncertainties, scenario simulation, stakeholder participation and management recommendations). Articles illustrate mining impacts on ES through valuation exercises mostly. However, the lack of ground- and surface-water measurements, as well as insufficient representation of the connectivity among soil, water and humans, leave room for improvements. Inclusion of mining-specific environmental stressors models, increasing resolution of topographies, determination of baseline ES patterns and inclusion of multi-stakeholder perspectives are advantageous for policy support. We argue that achieving more holistic assessments exhorts practitioners to aim for high social-ecological connectivity using mechanistic models where possible and using inductive methods only where necessary. Due to data constraints, cause–effect networks might be the most feasible and best solution. Thus, a policy-oriented framework is proposed, in which data science is directed to environmental modelling for analysis of mining impacts on water ES. Full article
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Review
Modelling Tools to Analyze and Assess the Ecological Impact of Hydropower Dams
Water 2018, 10(3), 259; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w10030259 - 02 Mar 2018
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 3257
Abstract
We critically analyzed a set of ecological models that are used to assess the impact of hydropower dams on water quality and habitat suitability for biological communities. After a literature search, we developed an integrated conceptual model that illustrates the linkages between the [...] Read more.
We critically analyzed a set of ecological models that are used to assess the impact of hydropower dams on water quality and habitat suitability for biological communities. After a literature search, we developed an integrated conceptual model that illustrates the linkages between the main input variables, model approaches, the output variables and biotic-abiotic interactions in the ecosystems related to hydropower dams. We found that variations in water flow and water depth coupled with increased nutrient availability are major variables that contribute to structural and functional ecosystem changes. We also found that ecological models are an important tool to assess the impact of hydropower dams. For instance, model simulation of different scenarios (e.g., with and without the dam, different operation methods) can analyze and predict the related ecosystem shifts. However, one of the remaining shortcomings of these models is the limited capacity to separate dam-related impacts from other anthropogenic influences (e.g., agriculture, urbanization). Moreover, collecting sufficient high-quality data to increase the statistical power remains a challenge. The severely altered conditions (e.g., generation of very deep lakes) also lead to difficulties for standardized data collection. We see future opportunities in the integration of models to improve the understanding of the different processes affected by hydropower dam development and operation, as well as the use of remote sensing methods for data collection. Full article
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Review
Ecological Models to Infer the Quantitative Relationship between Land Use and the Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Community
Water 2018, 10(2), 184; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/w10020184 - 10 Feb 2018
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2254
Abstract
Land-use changes influence the ecological water quality. In spite of this knowledge, land-use information is often missing in ecological water quality studies. Therefore, in the present research, we selected 39 peer-reviewed model-based scientific papers that study the relationship between land use and aquatic [...] Read more.
Land-use changes influence the ecological water quality. In spite of this knowledge, land-use information is often missing in ecological water quality studies. Therefore, in the present research, we selected 39 peer-reviewed model-based scientific papers that study the relationship between land use and aquatic macroinvertebrates. From the selected papers, we found that certain water bodies responded more to local land use, while other water bodies were more likely to be affected by catchment land use. Hence, combined land-use information from both the local scale and the catchment scale will provide a better understanding of the impact of land-use changes on the ecological water quality. To gain this knowledge, efforts need to be taken to acquire land-use information from field observations and remote sensing or a geographic information system (GIS) data source. Furthermore, we concluded on the benefits of using models to better understand the relationship between the ecological water quality and environmental variables. Depending on the aim of the study and the nature of the data, researchers can select the most suitable model to ensure fast analysis. Full article
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