Benefits of the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network 

Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) is a collaborative network that can reduce the time and money required for any single organization to assess aquatic ecosystem health. After completing the standardized training and field certification program, participants in CABIN gain access to:

  • Nationally standardized sampling protocols
  • A web-accessible database for data storage
  • Consistent data available from across the country
  • Scientifically sound data analysis and reporting tools.

Read more below about the benefits and join the network!

Three key reasons CABIN works for water resource management

There are three (3) key reasons why using the CABIN website and protocols works for water resource management:

3 Key Reasons CABIN works for Water Resource Management

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Infographic Long Description

The Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) provides nationally standardized training and tools for biomonitoring using benthic macroinvertebrate communities. There are three (3) key reasons why using the CABIN website and protocols works for water resource management:

  1. CABIN facilitates Informed Decision Making; it helps answer key questions about aquatic health for watershed management.
    • Questions about the STATUS of the benthic invertebrate community, allowing for reporting on current environmental health.
    • Questions about TRENDS and changes in the benthic invertebrate community, which aid in restoration projects and can provide early warning indicators of disturbance.
    • Questions from environmental assessments, useful for REGULATORY studies.
    • Questions about ecosystem recovery during REMEDIATION efforts following environmental emergencies.
    • Quantification of the benthic macroinvertebrate community can also address other questions, such as those asked in biodiversity research.
  2. CABIN helps scientists study Cumulative Effects through Biological Monitoring, allowing them to assess the combined impacts of all upstream pressures on watersheds using meaningful baseline conditions.
    • CABIN shows users an Integrated Ecological Condition; a single CABIN sample represents effects on aquatic biota over time and can capture evidence of multiple disturbance events.
  3. CABIN provides a very cost effective approach to aquatic health monitoring, especially in remote locations in Canada, where resource development is occurring.
    • CABIN’s “Network of Networks” approach amplifies accessible information on aquatic health in Canada and powerful data sharing permits agencies to assess and report on aquatic health.

CABIN stakeholders across Canada enjoy using and contributing to the network and regularly see the benefits.

  • Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) recognizes that “CABIN provides [them] with the opportunity to develop a relationship with the river.”
  • An NGO noted that “CABIN has increased the legitimacy of [their] organization with its robust methods.”
  • Consultants using CABIN state that it is “ideal for assessing change in water quality.”
  • Government partners know the value of the CABIN network and tools, with the BC Ministry of the Environment recommending proponents use CABIN methods, and Parks Canada continuing to use CABIN as a cornerstone to their freshwater ecological monitoring program despite cutbacks. In the North, the Yukon Government greatly benefits from CABIN’s online tools and training.

Advantages of benthic macroinvertebrates for biomonitoring

CABIN collects and assesses benthic macroinvertebrates as an indicator of aquatic ecosystem health. Benthic refers to the bottom of the waterbody. Macroinvertebrates refer to organisms that do not have backbones and that are large enough to be seen with the naked eye.

For example, many insects such as mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, dragonflies and midges live in the aquatic environment in their early life stages before they develop wings. Many other macroinvertebrates such as worms, mites, mussels and crayfish live in the aquatic environment through their entire life cycle. 

There are many advantages to using benthic macroinvertebrates as indicators of aquatic health including:

  • They are found in all freshwater environments.
  • They are not as mobile as fish so they reflect the conditions of the environment where they are collected.
  • They are an important food source for fish.
  • They have a life span of one to up to three years in the aquatic ecosystem and can therefore reflect cumulative impacts over that time.
  • There are many different types of benthic macroinvertebrates that respond differently to different types of pollution.
  • They are well studied as aquatic health indicators around the world.

Click here to see how macroinvertebrates are used as an indicator in the St. Lawrence River.

On a blue background, there are 11 macroinvertebrates of different species. One big larvae is in the middle and other smaller ones are displayed around.

CABIN complements water quality monitoring

Sampling for chemicals in water is a key aspect of water quality monitoring in Canada. It provides a snapshot of water quality at the time of sample collection. Water quality monitoring can track changes through time and can also allow comparisons of water quality among different locations.

CABIN benthic macroinvertebrate samples provide information about the biological health of a waterbody that complements water quality monitoring. CABIN sampling can detect changes in types and numbers of benthic macroinvertebrates that may reflect long-term exposure to disturbances such as:

  • the presence of many different interacting chemicals
  • short-term pollution events
  • the presence of undetected chemicals
  • the presence of invasive species
  • habitat degradation in the watershed (related to activities such as forestry, construction or wildfire events)
  • changes in water levels, flows, and timing (ice formation and spring thaw) or other climate-related changes.

Applications of CABIN 

CABIN provides decision-support to watershed management in Canada. It can be used to assess the current condition of the aquatic ecosystem or provide an early warning indicator of disturbance by assessing changes over time.

CABIN can be used in a variety of ways:    

  • Establishing baseline conditions prior to a development project
  • Contributing to biodiversity studies
  • Monitoring effects of climate-related changes or events
  • Assessing impacts of non-point source pollution
  • Contributing to environmental assessments
  • Monitoring resource development effects on the aquatic ecosystem
  • Assessing restoration and remediation efforts (e.g. riverbank or fish habitat restoration).

Rigorous scientific research led to the development of CABIN protocols and analysis tools. Advances in biomonitoring will continue to improve the CABIN program over time (see Other Relevant Resources for research papers related to CABIN science). 

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