Macrophytes as a tool for assessing the trophic status of a river: a case study of the upper Oum Er Rbia Basin (Morocco)

Ayoub Nouri, Hammada Soumaya, Chillasse Lahcen, Haddioui Abdelmajid

Paper category: Original research paper
Corresponding author: Ayoub Nouri (
DOI: 10.2478/oandhs-2021-0008
Received: 23/06/2020
Accepted: 22/09/2020
Full text: here

Citation (APA style): Nouri, A., Soumaya, H., Lahcen, C. & Abdelmajid, H. (2021). Macrophytes as a tool for assessing the trophic status of a river: a case study of the upper Oum Er Rbia Basin (Morocco). Oceanological and Hydrobiological Studies, 50(1), 77-86.


Macrophytes are one of the main components of the aquatic ecosystem. They are used in several countries as metrics for the ecological assessment of hydrosystems. The objective of our study was to evaluate the suitability of the Macrophyte Biological Index for Rivers (IBMR) to determine a trophic level in the upper Oum Er Rbia basin (Morocco) and to understand physicochemical parameters of water that govern the distribution of macrophyte species. CCA analysis was used to relate the distribution of macrophytes to hydrochemical parameters of water. The CCA analysis shows that the distribution of macrophytes was more correlated with abiotic parameters (EC, WT and DO) than nutrient parameters (PO4-P, NO3-N, NO2-N, NH3-N and CODMn). The recorded values of IBMR in the upper Oum Er Rbia basin indicate that the trophic level of the studied rivers ranged from “moderate” to “very high”. Pearson’s correlation coefficient showed that the IBMR is more correlated with the abiotic parameters such as WT and EC and does not show any significant correlation with the content of PO4-P and NH3-N in water, which makes the IBMR index unreliable for assessing the trophic status related to phosphate and ammonia concentrations in our lotic waters.


This study is the first in the upper Oum Er Rbia basin employing a macrophyte metric such as the Macrophyte Biological Index for Rivers (IBMR) to assess the trophic state of rivers. Our results provide new data on the physicochemical parameters controlling the distribution of macrophytes in the Moroccan river system, as well as on the role played by macrophytes as a sensitive indicator of eutrophication of watercourses. Even though the IBMR index showed encouraging results regarding the trophic state of the studied rivers, the correlation between this macrophyte metric and each hydrochemical parameter showed that the IBMR is more related to abiotic parameters than nutrients. These results allow us to pose a serious question concerning the suitability and reliability of the IBMR for the assessment of pollution related to phosphate and ammonium concentrations in our hydrosystems. Finally, it is necessary to develop an indication method for Moroccan rivers, which would take into consideration all species characteristic of our watercourses and which would include different environmental factors that characterize our rivers.


The authors are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and valuable suggestions on this manuscript.


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