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What is Biomonitoring?

DEC's Stream Biomonitoring Unit has conducted biological monitoring (or biomonitoring) since 1972 to assess the water quality of the State's rivers and streams.Stonefly being held by DEC personnel.

Biological monitoring provides information on the health of an ecosystem based on which organisms live in a waterbody. The types and numbers of organisms collected from polluted water differ from those collected in clean water, helping us determine "how clean" (level of water quality) the water is and to detect water quality changes over time.

Macroinvertebrates, fish, and algae are all widely used in biomonitoring. Although DEC collects information on all of these aquatic organisms, macroinvertebrates are collected and analyzed the most.

When and where are biomonitoring data collected?

Each major watershed in the state is monitored on a five year schedule as a part of our Rotating Integrated Basin Studies (RIBS) program. Each sampling season (June-September), three or more basins are sampled following this schedule.

2016 Sampling

In 2016, DEC's Stream Biomonitoring Unit is collecting macroinvertebrates from approximately 75 streams and rivers in each of three watersheds: Allegheny River, Seneca/Oneida/Oswego River, and Upper Hudson River, as part of the RIBS Screening Network. Macroinvertebrates will also be collected in the Niagara River/Lake Erie, Ontario Lake and Mohawk River watersheds, as part of the RIBS Intensive Monitoring Network . All 2016 sampling points can be viewed on the interactive and detailed 2016 Stream Biomonitoring Unit Sampling Google Map (link leaves DEC website).

Map of 2016 Biomonitoring sampling points.

How are biomonitoring data collected?

DEC adheres to the procedures outlined in the Standard Operating Procedure: Biological Monitoring of Surface Waters in New York State, 2016 (PDF) (3.4 MB) to collect, process, and analyze biomonitoring data. This ensures uniformity of methods and accuracy of data when performing biological monitoring of surface waters in New York State.

How does DEC use biomonitoring data?