Limnetica, Vol. 1, Núm. 29 (2010)

The pond biodiversity index “IBEM”: a new tool for the rapid assessment of biodiversity in ponds from Switzerland. Part 1. Index development

Sandrine Angelibert, Veronique Rosset, Nicola Indermuehle, Beat Oertli


Due to legal requirements, nature managers increasingly have to carry out assessments of biodiversity for conservation purposes. For ponds, a type of waterbody now widely recognized as an important reservoir for freshwater biodiversity, standardized ioassessment methods are needed, but still rare. We produced such a tool for small lowland waterbodies in Switzerland: the Pond Biodiversity Index (“IBEM”). This Index is the adaptation of a method used by researchers for assessing the biodiversity in ponds, PLOCH, which does not currently meet the requirements for routine use by nature managers because it is too expensive and requires a high skill level in taxonomic identification. A method intended for practitioners has to be simple, standardized, cheap, adjustable, and consistent with the legislative framework. In order to fulfill these requirements, the theoretical and practical aspects of IBEM were developed with a group of representative end users including nature conservation managers, consultants, governmental organizations and taxonomic experts. To develop the method, we used a species dataset from 63 Swiss lowland ponds which included five taxonomic groups: aquatic plants, aquatic Gastropoda, aquatic Coleoptera,adult Odonata and Amphibia. The following topics were addressed: (i) the number and type of taxonomic groups which should be used for producing the index (is it possible to use surrogates?) (ii) the level of identification for each taxonomic group (species? genus? family?) (iii) the sampling strategy (sampling technique, number of replicates), (iv) the calculation of a unique index and the strategy for assessing its score, and (v) the transfer of this new method to end users. The new method IBEM uses all five taxonomic groups, because a subset of groups did not produce reliable assessments of pond biodiversity. Identification to genus level is required for four groups (aquatic plants, aquatic Gastropoda, aquatic Coleoptera, adult Odonata) and species level for Amphibia. The sampling methodology is based on the stratified random strategy used in the PLOCH method, but with a slight modification in the number of samples per pond. The assessment follows the methodology adopted by the European Water Framework Directive, and the ratio of the observed richness to a reference-based predicted richness is translated into one of five quality categories for each pond. The final index is the mean of the five assessment scores. To facilitate the implementation of the IBEM method, a website ( enables online calculation of the index, and provides instructions on both sampling and assessment methodologies. Furthermore, training courses are organized by the authors of the method for end users.

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