The Hellenic Fish Index (HeFI)

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The Hellenic Fish Index (HeFI)

Use of biomass indicators to monitor river conditions (river health) and publish the Hellenic Fish Index (HeFI).

Fish are an important ecological indicator in inland waters. Environmental status of rivers, indicators of river health. This is what we do when we "count the fish" to monitor water management, we seek to assess health status with fish-based indicators (bioassessment). And in rivers, where there are very few sickly-looking fish, things generally don't go well; You will see all the fish. (However, a thorough knowledge and understanding of the natural history and ecology of the particular fish communities and rivers you wish to diagnose is required...)

It is clear that the taste of river fish is not enough. Politics needs indicators. Fishery indices divide fish communities into indices. Fish communities have characteristics that are known to be directly affected by anthropogenic degradation (degradation of rivers, segments, basins, or even basin topography and a combination of effects, not just one effect). Indicators are characteristics of a fish community that respond consistently and predictably to human impacts on habitat, water conditions, and even the surrounding landscape, or a combination thereof. These mechanical tools can quickly summarize conditions and help monitor and report trends.

Fish are a good tool for assessing river degradation because…

- Fish require a lot of resources and special conditions. Many fish are large and long-lived.
- Fish are varied and widespread. Many streams and rivers have a variety of species, and even very small streams should have at least one eel or catfish (some species are surprisingly tolerant of anthropogenic changes such as pollution, others are not).
Some fish have specific characteristics shared with other fish, so this is not only a species-specific response to stress, but also a functional one.
Guild species and functional traits have been shown to behave similarly/uniformly in different rivers, providing principles for global bioassessment. Fish communities on different continents have similar metric responses to human-induced river degradation.
-Fish affect ecosystems, many other species depend on them. Fish are the base of the food web.
- Movement of fish, some must go through massive migrations, so any anthropogenic barrier affects both the habitat (etc.) and directly affects the fish in different ways.
- Many fish are "protected", they are special elements of the natural heritage (rare, endangered, endemic, etc.).
- Fish are beautiful. People will ask about them, feel pity and pain when they see dead fish. Therefore, fish are connected to us culturally and not just as a food source.

In applied fish bioassessment, we use indicators according to the strict rules of the EU Water Framework Directive. Since 2002, we have been working on fish indices at the ICRC. In 2017, we published the first national supplement, The Hellenic Fish Index (HeFI). Here are supporting documents for its validation and publication.

2 Intercalibration Reports (2016)

Development of a National Classification Methodology for the Environmental Status of Rivers in Greece Fish


Hellenic Fish Index - Article published by HeFI in Science of the Total Environment (2017)

A Model-Based Fish Bioassessment Index for Eastern Mediterranean Rivers

.. and some pictures for explanation….

Graphic summary of indicators based on the HeFI model. The index is based on only four indicators (left) that have a predictable response as a function of anthropogenic stress gradients on the river system (ie, as a response to an independent cumulative assessment of anthropogenic stress on the system).

Typical dose–response relationships of human specific pressure (x axis, constructed waterproof cover) and index results (y axis) based on macroinvertebrate samples. Not so easy with fish ( In invertebrate families and tribes, they have tolerant/intolerant status, are harder on fish, are more mobile, and involve fewer species. Selection of fish is more difficult than that of macroinvertebrates.
A major problem in using fish-based indicators is that Greece and neighboring countries are naturally biogeographically fragmented; Yellow lines indicate distinct boundaries of long-term distribution of freshwater biota. The boundaries of this freshwater ecoregion are like a different world; Each "freshwater ecoregion" is home to a variety of fish communities, including many endemic fish species. Therefore, the indicator must be accurate under different reference conditions. Thus functional traits are used rather than a species-specific response mechanism.
Clear water, good soil, full of benthic rheophilic fish of various sizes (there are 6 species in the Araktos branch at this place, including this school of Barbus Peloponnesius ). Index Score: High (Excellent - Reference Site).

In the large Euro tributary west of the village of Lefkim, the stream is small but has 6 species such as this large Barbus cyclolepis . The situation is almost normal. The perfect highlight.
A highly eutrophic stream (Provatonus, a tributary of the Euro, always near Lefkim) cultivated land with very few small fish (bottom right) and algae. Eutrophic conditions are created by dams, agriculture and reservoirs near bridges. Here the index returns "bad".

Bass Evrotas is depleted, but this particular site has a variety of habitats, but the ichthyofauna lacks large migratory fish (the fish in this figure are endemic to Tropidophoxinellus spartiaticus). Here the index gives "weak".
Sludge bottom flow, very small omnivorous fish, artificially degraded condition (indicator score: condition may or may not deteriorate).
Some larger fish require deeper water, such as Luciobarbus greicus (also a vulnerable species). At this site there were "things" in the lower part of Spurkios (near Kombotades).
Sometimes the quality, clarity and beauty of the water is great, but there are hardly any fish to be found. Here, downstream of the Agia Varvara Dam in Veria (Aliacmon River), there is a river bend, hydrocrest and hydrological stress, and we found only 3 species: below, 14 species are found in more natural conditions. (The dam is visible in the distance in this picture.)

Base camp conditions are created based on what is "expected" in natural conditions under various river conditions. Reference model (decision tree) for the last four fish indices selected in the analysis supporting HeFI; A. Proportion of large insectivorous fish ( ≥100 mm), B. Potamodrome species; and D. Proportion of small omnivorous species (<100 mm). The environmental parameters defining the terms of this link are: or Answer: Temp_Jan = Average monthly air temperature in January.
Final HeFI evaluation of over 400 sample sites on the Greek mainland and two islands.
(Blue: High, Green: Good, Yellow: Average, Orange: Bad, Red: Bad).

Part of the team that made the index possible: Stefan Schmutz, Nikos Skoulikidis, Sincerely, and Alcibiades N. the economy
(February 2, 2014, HCMR Anavissos).

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