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Working Group 2: Bioassays and biomarkers in water quality monitoring

The value of bioassays and biomarkers in water monitoring programmes: strategies for the interpretation of results

Starting date: April 2009

Co-Leading Team: 


Goethe University Frankfurt (Germany)



Besides sharing data and experience on the use of bioassays (via NORMAN databases and general workshops), there is an international need to define and standardise the interpretation of results gained within monitoring studies using bioassays. Central questions in terms of bioassays are:

  • What can we say and not say about our water quality?
  • How can decision-makers use the results of these tools (e.g. in future implementation within the Water Framework Directive)?

Validation of the relationship between biological quality (as measured in the WFD on the basis of species lists) and effects measured with bioassays or biomarkers is crucial.

The main objective of the Bioassays Working Group is therefore to provide recommendations for the implementation of effect-based tools in European regulation.

The activities of this working group include:

  • Maintaining an inventory of available bioassays and defining, in light of the specific information needs, which bioassays to use (members of NORMAN representing the Bioassays WG and the EDA WG provided input into the CMEP Report on effect-based monitoring tools – “Technical report on aquatic effect-based monitoring tools” - annex – organised by the European Commission, DG ENV and published in April 2014);
  • Discussing critical issues regarding the interpretation of bioassay results and needs/requirements to allow the operational use of these tools for decision-makers;
  • Organising interlaboratory studies to improve knowledge of the variability of the test results;
  • Publishing opinion papers to explain the position of the experts to the decision-makers, thereby facilitating communication of the latest findings, current gaps and actions needed. 

To achieve its objectives the  Bioassays Working Group works in liaison with the two other NORMAN Working Groups on “Prioritisation” and on “Effect-directed analysis”.


Contact: Henner Hollert


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