Benthic Ecology and Ecological Status Assessment

Head: Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Ilse Schwarzinger
Deputy: Assoc.Prof. Dr. Wolfram Graf

(To view team members, theses and projects please switch to german language)



The main focus of research and education of the working group is the ecology and taxonomy of benthic macroinvertebrates (river bottom-dwelling organisms, e.g. larvae of insects, crustaceans, and mussels) throughout Europe, the Himalayan Region, and parts of Africa. Issues of biodiversity in waters of different types (mainly rivers and streams and floodplain-systems) and effects of anthropogenic activities (river control structures, waterpulses, retention caused by hydro power, pollution etc.) are subject matters of research. More over impacts of climatic changes or invasion of non-indigenous species (Neozoa) on freshwater-ecosytems are investigated.  Using a large internal database, which stores macroinvetrebrate data of a multitude of waters as well as the information of the entire "Fauna Aquatica Austriaca"(species and related classifications), the working is able to conduct multiple analyses. As a necessary goal the activities of the working group shall serve as a basis for a sustainable and harmonized use of nature.  

Fundamental and applied research of the working group as well as practical realization of running waters investigation are comprised of the development, testing and standardization of methods for assessing the water quality and ecological status of rivers and streams in Europe (e.g. contribution to the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive), Asia and Africa. As a basis therefor a river typology was developed (e.g. implementation of ecoregions and bioregions in Austria). For the successful practicability and comparability of the data the working group is engaged in quality assurance and – control (e.g. co-development of CEN and OENORMs). For that purpose amongst others identification keys for scientists, students and practical persons as well as courses for field-grown methods (e.g. Multi-Habitat-Sampling) and taxonomical identification of invertebrates are organized. In connection with quality assurance the software ECOPROF, which is an analysis program to evaluate and store water related ecological data was developed. (⇒

In the recent years a large database for the autecology of European freshwater organisms in the course of various projects in cooperation with colleagues from domestic and foreign universities was developed (⇒ Zoogeographical aspects, phylogeny and phylogeography, as well as classification of endangerment of aquatic organisms is part of the work of the group.