Franšais      print      e-mail    


Prygiel J., Lévêque L. and R. Iserentant (1996) A New Practical Diatom Index for the Assessment of Water Quality in Monitoring Networks. Rev. Sci. Eau9 (1) : 97-113. [article in French]

Original title: Un nouvel Indice Diatomique Pratique pour l'évaluation de la qualité des eaux en réseau de surveillance.

Full text (PDF)


Macroinvertebrates constitute the main biological support for an evaluation of the quality of water courses and are, therefore, widely put to use in monitoring networks. However, for major water courses and canalized waterways the use of other methodologies is imperative. Diatoms and diatom indices are well adapted to the study of these environments. Among these, the Specific Polluosensitivity Index (SPI) established by CEMAGREF seems to be one of the better performing diatom indices. Calculation of this index relies on the Zelinka & Marvan formula derived from the saprobic system: SPI=[Epsilon]A[inf]j v[inf]j i[inf]j / [Epsilon] A[inf]j v[inf]j where A[inf]j is the relative abundance of the species j, v j is its indicative value ( 1 [smaller or equal] v[inf]j [smaller or equal] 3) and i[inf]j its pollution sensitivity (1 [smaller or equal] i[inf]j [smaller or equal] 5). The values initially falling in the range between 1 and 5 are transformed into values comprised between 1 and 20, in order to make comparisons between the various existing indices easier. Five categories of water quality can be distinguished according to the value of the index: SPI [Bigger or equal] 16: zero pollution or low eutrophication; 13.5 [smaller or equal] SPI < 16: moderate eutrophication; 11 [smaller or equal] SPI < 13.5: moderate pollution or heavy eutrophication; 7 [smaller or equal] SPI < 11: high pollution; SPI < 7 : very heavy pollution. However, the SPI index is rarely used because of two main obstacles: it requires data at a specific or even infraspecific level, and it is based on constantly changing systematics. Progress towards increased accessibility and, therefore, larger application was made with the elaboration of the Generic Diatomic Index (IDG) based on the same principle as the SPI. However, this GDI does not yield reliable results, in so far as certain genera, such as Navicula and Nitzschia, contain species with a widely differing ecologies. In order to provide a methodology that can be used as a matter of routine, a protocol for the elaboration of a Practical Diatomic Index (PDI) was established and tested on 86 inventories from the water basin of the river Aa (North of France). These were first classified into four categories according to the variations observed between SPI and GDI: category 1: |SPI-GDI| [bigger or equal] 3 ; category 2: 2 [smaller or equal] |SPI-GDI|; category 3: 1 [smaller or equal] |SPI-DGI| < 2 ; category 4: |SPI-DGI| < 1. For each of the first three categories, the species responsible for the variations were identified, taking into consideration those with a relative abundance of more than 5%, the pollution sensitivity of which showed, compared to the corresponding genus, a variation higher than or equal to 0.4. Thus, three indices corresponding respectively to category 1 (PDI1), 2 (PDI2), and 3 (PDI3) were proposed and tested against the SPI taken as reference index. The results of this comparative study can be summarized as follows:

  • GDI=0.57 SPI + 5.47 r=0.801 (242 species),
  • PDI1=0.86 SPI + 1.12 r=0.972 ( 27 species),
  • PDI2=0.95 SPI + 0.55 r=0.991 ( 39 species),
  • PDI3=0.96 SPI + 0.45 r=0.994 ( 42 species).

To test the implications of replacing the presently used SPI by this practical index, a comparative study of the classification of inventories in four categories of hydrobiological quality was also carried out. This study shows that the mean, at - 1.76 ± 2.25 for the GDI, is reduced to 0.14 ± 0.94 for PDI1, to - 0.07 ± 0.51 for PDI2, and to - 0.07 ± 0.45 for PDI3. Given the variability of the index at one and the same site and in one sampling, PDI2 considered to be the best compromise between reliability and network applicability. The methodology corresponding to PDI2 was applied to the 480 samplings carried out in the Artois-Picardie basin and a new Practical Diatom Index is thus proposed for the monitoring of the 200 sites making up the monitoring network of the Artois-Picardie water basin. This PDI, built on a base of more than 550 species and varieties, rests on the joint determination of 45 genera and 91 species of which the pollution sensitivity coefficients and the indicative values are given.


Bioindicators, Practical Diatom Index (PDI), water courses, hydrobiological network, Aa watershed (Artois-Picardie, France).

Corresponding author

J Prygiel, Agence de l'Eau Artois-Picardie de 764 Bd Lahure, 59508 Douai Cedex, FRANCE


J Prygiel, Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille, Laboratoire d'Écologie Numérique, 59655 Villeneuve d'Ascq Cedex, FRANCE

Franšais      print      e-mail    

Update: 2006-12-19
© INRS Eau, Terre et Environnement