A macrophysiology approach to watershed science and management

Robert J. Lennox, Cory D. Suski, Steven J. Cooke

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Freshwaters are among the most imperiled ecosystems on the planet such that much effort is expended on environmental monitoring to support the management of these systems. Many traditional monitoring efforts focus on abiotic characterization of water quantity or quality and/or indices of biotic integrity that focus on higher scale population or community level metrics such as abundance or diversity. However, these indicators may take time to manifest in degraded systems and delay the identification and restoration of these systems. Physiological indicators manifest rapidly and portend oncoming changes in populations that can hasten restoration and facilitate preventative medicine for degraded habitats. Therefore, assessing freshwater ecosystem integrity using physiological indicators of health is a promising tool to improve freshwater monitoring and restoration. Here, we discuss the value of using comparative, longitudinal physiological data collected at a broad spatial (i.e. watershed) scale (i.e. macrophysiology) as a tool for monitoring aquatic ecosystem health within and among local watersheds to develop timely and effective management plans. There are emerging tools and techniques available for rapid, cost-effective, and non-lethal physiological sampling and we discuss how these can be integrated into management using fish as sentinel indicators in freshwater. Although many examples of this approach are relatively recent, we foresee increasing use of macrophysiology in monitoring, and advocate for the development of more standard tools for consistent and reliable assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-440
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Biomarker
  • Environmental assessment
  • Fish assemblage
  • Individual-based monitoring
  • Physiology
  • Restoration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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