Biotic indices to monitor water quality are helpful tools for evaluating the health of rivers and lakes. In Brazil water samples are mainly analyzed using physical and chemical attributes, because most biotic indices were developed in other countries and their effective application to Brazilian ecosystems requires significant research. This study compared four biotic indices commonly used to evaluate water quality via benthic macroinvertebrates in order to determine which index best reflects ecosystem health in a coastal river in Brazil's Paraná state. We also analyzed functional feeding groups. The indices studied were: 1) EPT (percent of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera); 2) BMWP' (Biological Monitoring Work Party System); 3) BMWP'-ASPT (Average Score per Taxon); and 4) HFBI (Hilsenhoff Family Biotic Index). All indices were calculated from five samples collected from April 2005 to April 2006 at two stations on the coastal do Pinto River. The river's headwaters are inside a protected area but impacts increase downriver (e.g., towns, cattle grazing, tourism). The HFBI index did the poorest job of reflecting water quality. No one index performed better than the others, and all indices yielded water quality scores that did not accurately reflect macroinvertebrate community structure because all of them had differences between ordination scores and the structure of assemblage. The functional feeding groups protocol classified the lower stretch of the river as disturbed due to human impacts, suggesting that this method is a good one to evaluate health in environments.
macroinvertebrates; biomonitoring; functional feeding groups; biotic index; coastal stream