Abstract This study describes the application of a protocol for biological assessment of water quality at first to third order streams at Serra dos rgos, an area covered by Atlantic Forest in Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. Major impacts in the region are domestic effluents and deforestation. Our main objective is to establish biocriteria for the establishment of the Serra dos rgos Multimetric Index (SOMI) based on benthic macroinvertebrates. We used data from previous studies, sampled by experienced biologists, from 1999 through 2002. The benthic macroinvertebrate community was sampled in 12 reference sites and seven impaired sites in three river basins: Guapimirim, Maca and Grande, all from the same bioregion. From the 22 tested metrics, 6 were included in the SOMI Diptera, % Coleoptera, Family Taxa, EPT Taxa, BMWP-CETEC and % Shredders). Scores (5, 3 or 1) were developed for these metrics to allow for aggregation into the index. Seven intermediately impaired sites were used for evaluating the applicability of the multimetric index. We concluded that the SOMI is a robust easy-to-apply tool for biomonitoring programs in the Serra dos rgos region, south-east Brazil.
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