ECCC Mainstem Benthic Invertebrates

Disclaimer: This benthic macroinvertebrate dataset has been made available after results were received from the laboratory and reviewed. All data have been validated according to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s procedures; however, further quality assurance and quality control procedures may result in minor differences between what is available at present and what is recorded in the authoritative record in Environment and Climate Change Canada’s databases.

Relevant Study Notes: The Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (Environment Canada and Alberta Environment 2012) included the initiation of new biomonitoring sites on the Lower Athabasca River mainstem and its major tributaries following the study designs proposed in the Integrated Monitoring Plan for the Oil Sands (Phase 2) (Environment Canada and Alberta Environment 2011). This data consists of samples of benthic macroinvertebrates, comprised of insects, crustaceans, molluscs, and worms that represent a group of organisms used widely in environmental monitoring programs as indicators to assess the effects of water quality or physical habitat conditions on aquatic ecosystem health. These data are from the Mainstem Athabasca River located in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region of northeastern Alberta, Canada. An interpretive report (Culp et. al., 2018) was released in 2018 that included assessments of the benthic and supporting data from 2012-2015. The full report can be found online at The benthic macroinvertebrate data consists of individual, 3-minute traveling kick-net samples using a 400 µm mesh net (Environment Canada 2012a) that were collected in the fall from 2012-2019. Some comparative study samples were collected with a 250 µm mesh kick net. Samples were sorted according to CABIN laboratory protocols (Environment Canada 2012b) and subsampled using a Marchant box. Where possible, the sorted benthic macroinvertebrates were identified to lowest practical taxonomic level, and the total number of organisms for each taxon per 3 minutes sample is provided. Benthic macroinvertebrate data was collected at up to twenty-one sites on the mainstem of the Athabasca River focusing on near-shore gravel and sand habitats on the Athabasca River.

In addition to collecting benthic macroinvertebrate samples, supporting water and sediment chemistry samples were taken at the same sites and on the same dates in the fall 2012-2019. The data include measures of nutrients, metals (dissolved and total), polycyclic aromatic compounds, major ions, and physical measures. These water and sediment quality samples were collected as per the Phase 1 parameter lists and submitted to CALA accredited analytical laboratories. No benthic macroinvertebrate or associated water and sediment quality samples were collected in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that prevented sampling. Taken together, this data uses an integrated approach to assess aquatic ecosystem health of the Athabasca River in response to oil sands development in northeastern Alberta, Canada.

References: Environment Canada and Alberta Environment. 2012. Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring. Government of Canada. Pp. 27. Environment Canada and Alberta Environment. 2011. Integrated Monitoring Plan for the Oil Sands Expanded Geographic Extent for Water Quality and Quantity, Aquatic Biodiversity and Effects, and Acid Sensitive Lake Component. Government of Canada. Pp. 102. Environment Canada. 2012a. Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network Field Manual Wadeable Streams. 49 pp. Environment Canada. 2012b. Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network Laboratory Methods, Processing, Taxonomy, and Quality Control of Benthic Macroinvertebrate Samples. 30 pp.

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Alternate Title/Name
Creator ECCC
Contributor OSM
Publisher ECCC
Subject Aquatic Biology
Group/Subgroup Benthic Invertebrates
Parameters Benthic invertebrate community; water quality
Data Type Discrete
Temporal Coverage Begins 2011-01-01
Temporal Coverage Ends 2019-12-31
Spatial Coverage Benthic invertebrate community; water quality
Spatial Projection
Usage Considerations or Constraints
Format CSV
Resouce Type Spreadsheet
Language English, French
OSM Asset? Yes
Contact Email