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River Invertebrate Classification Tool (RICT) and RIVPACS

The RIVPACS Database

The RIVPACS models are based on a database of reference samples from streams and rivers across the UK. These were collected between 1978 and 2002. This database is available to download from the following link on the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology web site: RIVPACS Database

The Regulatory Agencies for surface waters in the UK (the Environment Agency; Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru - Natural Resources Wales; Scottish Environment Protection Agency; and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency) have recently begun to use the new web-based River Invertebrate Classification Tool (RICT) to classify the ecological quality of rivers. RICT incorporates RIVPACS (River InVertebrate Prediction And Classification Software) predictive models and is a highly capable tool written in a modern software programming language.

RICT (incorporating new RIVPACS IV predictive models) has now superseded the MS-DOS based RIVPACS III+ software as the official tool for Water Framework Directive macroinvertebrate classification by the UK Agencies. Please note that RICT is designed for professional users and the FBA offers RICT training courses as part of its regular course programme.

The FBA, in collaboration with Ralph Clarke (formerly CEH and Bournemouth University), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and Queen Mary University of London, has led several of the recent research and development projects on the RIVPACS models that underpin RICT. These are briefly summarised below.

This page was last updated on the 7th December 2015.

Testing RICT predictions of expected values using an independent RIVPACS model and new RIVPACS test data

Since the first launch of the RICT software a variety of research and development projects on RIVPACS have been undertaken to further develop and enhance the models. Whilst not all of these upgrades have been applied to the operational version of the RICT software, many have and this has necessitated a series of software upgrades by programmers and IT specialists.

This project describes work done to test the implementation of the various upgrades that have been made to RICT by comparison to an independently coded version of the RIVPACS predictive model. It also describes the derivation of a new FBA RICT test dataset with a wide geographical spread of test sites and range of environmental qualities (downloadable below).

November 2018 update: The GB test dataset was updated to fill in missing data for test sites TST-10-R and TST


Download the Testing RICT predictions of expected values using an independent RIVPACS model report (under review)

RICT Testing Stage 1 Report click to view


Download the FBA GB RICT Test Dataset

The RICT Test Dataset Abundance weighted WHPT spring, summer autumn biotic indices click to view

Modifications to RICT for Abundance-Weighted Indices - a project for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency

The UK environment agencies needed to update the RICT software system to take account of the new abundance-weighted indices. These new indices, namely, WHPT, LIFE and PSI needed to be introduced to improve the assessment of general degradation, and report on hydro-morphological impacts and sediment stress. The capacity to predict and classify using abundance–weighted indices is an entirely new development for RIVPACS/RICT and these new indices needed to be incorporated into all of the existing steps that enable a classification to be performed. Specifically, the new indices required (i) methods to base site assessments for a single year or a three year period on the average of the single season sample estimates of index EQI values, (ii) methods and estimates to correct for bias arising from laboratory sample processing errors, (iii) EQR factors to adjust EQI values to a standard WFD reference state, (iv) banding systems to permit classification of EQRs into water quality classes, and (v) estimates of sampling uncertainties to allow the calculation of confidences of class.

This project sought to develop some of the methods, algorithms and parameter estimates to help implement abundance-based indices into a future upgrade of the RICT software.





The abundance-weighted indices report can be downloaded from this link (Under review)




The abundance-weighted indices report click to view

Deep River Airlift Sampling - Ergonomics Videos

Deep River Airlift Sampling

The FBA has carried out a research project for the Environment Agency to help derive a standardised approach to airlift sampling in deep rivers. As part of this project, the health and safety aspects of airlift sampling were examined. This was based on a comprehensive field trial, including all aspects of equipment handling and sampling.

The field trial was carried out on the 21st May 2010 with the kind help of the following people from the Environment Agency, Yorkshire and North East Region: Barry Byatt, Dave Barber, Julie Winterbottom, Joanne Hood and Paul Curry. The assessment of storage and loading was performed at Coverdale House (Environment Agency, Yorkshire and North East Region), while the river-based assessment was carried out on the River Derwent at Barmby Barrage, Yorkshire.

The four short films demonstrating airlift sampling are available to download below.

Loading the equipment Launching the boat
Download Part 1 Download Part 2
Airlift sampling Recovering the boat

Download Part 3

Download Part 4

Standardisation of RIVPACS for Deep Rivers – Environment Agency project 23804

The FBA, in collaboration with Queen Mary University of London, has also led a R&D project funded by the Environment Agency that has sought to improve the performance of RICT in deep rivers.

While the reference samples that RIVPACS is based on have generally been collected with a standardised kick/sweep sampling method, the samples from deep river reference sites have been sampled with a variety of methods. In this project, work was done to assess the extent of the standardisation problems in the deep river reference samples, and to determine what actions would be needed to re-sample those sites with more rigorously standardised deep river sampling methods.

Rules were also developed to help choose the appropriate sampling method based on a combination of stream width and depth measurements. The health and safety aspects of airlift sampling were also examined.

The final reports have been produced:

A Review of Deep Rivers Sampling Techniques:

A Review of Deep Rivers Sampling Techniques click to view

Deriving a Standard Approach to Deep River Sampling:

Deriving a Standard Approach to Deep River Sampling click to view

Enhancement of the River Invertebrate Classification Tool – SNIFFER Project WFD119

While RICT classifies waters for general degradation and organic pollution stress, WFD compliance monitoring also requires the UK Agencies to assess the impacts of a wide range of other pressures including hydro-morphological and acidification stresses. Some of these pressures alter the predictor variables that current RIVPACS models use to derive predicted biotic indices.

Building on project WFD100, this SNIFFER funded project has broadened the scope of RICT by developing new RIVPACS models that do not use predictor variables that are affected by stressors, but instead use alternative GIS based variables that are wholly independent of environmental pressures.



The project final report can be downloaded from this link: WFD119 Report




Further Development of the River Invertebrate Classification Tool – SNIFFER project WFD100

This SNIFFER funded project included a review of the species level biotic indices in use across the UK and Europe and the required level of taxonomic resolution to calculate them. A new intermediate level of species identification was defined to enable the UK Agencies to process species-level macroinvertebrate samples that could be used to derive biotic indices without having to work at the traditional, and very detailed, ‘RIVPACS species level'.

Project WFD100 also addressed the long running need to improve the macroinvertebrate abundance data in the RIVPACS dataset. This was achieved by re-entry of abundance data from the original laboratory data sheets for over 2000 RIVPACS reference samples. This has enabled the RIVPACS models to provide reference condition predictions for a wide range of abundance based biotic indices.

The project also included a review of the predictor variables used by the RIVPACS models to see if it might be possible to improve the independence of RIVPACS predictions from physical environmental stressors.




The project final report can be downloaded from this link: WFD100 Report





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