RIVPACS (River Invertebrate Prediction and Classification System) is a free statistical model that enables the user to estimate the ecological health of new running water sites. Drawing on datasets of what macroinvertebrate life exists in 'pristine' conditions, it can predict what macroinvertebrates should be at the new site with its particular habitat type. The difference between the expected fauna and the observed fauna then indicates the ecological status of the water, providing river managers with supporting data for preventing or reversing the loss of habitat quality and biodiversity. This information has also proven to be invaluable in the successful implementation of the Water Framework Directive.
Individual users can design the model to offer predictions at many levels and for multiple metrics, allowing for a tailored summary instead of raw data. It can offer predictions at the species level, family level, or whatever specific taxonomic requirements a particular laboratory requires. By taking into account the seasonal changes in fauna, it can also make predictions for individual seasons (spring, summer or autumn), pairs of seasons, or all three seasons combined. This flexibility makes RIVPACS ideal for local applications and countries all over the globe have adapted it to suit their specific needs.
In order to develop a RIVPACS type model there must be a series of high quality sites (normally referred to as "reference sites"). These are carefully selected short river stretches that include the full range of running water sites within the region of interest.
Although realistically no river is unaffected by human activities, the reference sites represent the best examples of their type with the least impact (there are 35 site types in Great Britain and 11 in Northern Ireland). At each reference site, researchers use agreed upon standard protocols to collect macroinvertebrates and environmental data. This is done sometimes several times over the year to ensure there is a complete picture of the macroinvertebrate fauna, identifying them to the lowest practical taxonomic level (species or genus).
Researchers can then develop statistical models to summarise the inter-relationships between the observed macroinvertebrate fauna of the reference sites and their environmental characteristics.
About the database
The RIVPACS database is made up of the reference data for all the sites used to develop the RIVPACS statistical models. The database incorporates biological, physico-chemical, pressures and ownership data, presenting them in an easily-accessible format.
The database also includes:
- additional information on which sites are used in the new RIVPACS IV models
- new datasets used for uncertainty estimation
- newly derived estimates of numerical abundances for families
- new tables of biotic indices
- TWINSPAN end-group mean biotic index values relating to the RIVPACS IV models
The development of this database was commissioned by the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research (SNIFFER) at the request of the UK Water Framework Directive (WFD) technical advisory group (UKTAG) and is funded by SNIFFER and the Environment Agency of England and Wales.
River Invertebrates Classification Tool
The RIVPACS III+ software is freely available as a product called RICT (River Invertebrates Classification Tool). RICT incorporates the RIVPACS IV predictive models and supersedes the MS-DOS based RIVPACS III+ software as the official tool for Water Framework Directive macroinvertebrate classification by the UK Agencies. RICT is available through the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
To obtain the software, please go to the RICT website.
The following organisations (and/or their predecessors) contributed towards the collection of the data and have consented to make these available:
- Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
- Countryside Council for Wales
- Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- Natural England (formerly English Nature)
- Environment Agency
- Environment and Heritage Service
- Freshwater Biological Association
- Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research
- Scottish Environment Protection Agency
- Scottish Government
- Scottish Natural Heritage
- South West Water
- Welsh Assembly Government