Protocols for Collecting and Processing Macroinvertebrates from the Benthos and Water Column in Depressional Wetlands

Open-File Report 2022-1029
Prepared in collaboration with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Bemidji State University
By: , and 



Freshwater aquatic macroinvertebrates are key links in food webs and nutrient cycles, and thus often serve as biological indicators of ecosystem health. Macroinvertebrate investigations in research and monitoring require consistent and reliable field and laboratory procedures. Comprehensive standard operating procedures for sampling macroinvertebrates from depressional wetlands, which can range from riverine floodplain lakes to wetlands of any size and hydrologic regime, remain relatively sparse. This report provides step-by-step protocols for efficient use of time and resources while collecting and processing aquatic macroinvertebrate samples; for example, a single wetland can typically be field surveyed in less than 1 hour, and the samples can be processed in the laboratory in less than 2 hours. Samples can be collected from inside a motorboat or canoe or while wading. This procedures manual describes dip netting to collect macroinvertebrates from the wetland bottom and water column separately to facilitate investigations of habitat use by species occupying different areas of the wetland. This report also provides descriptive supplemental materials and data sheets to assist with the preparation of survey maps, the acquisition of field and laboratory equipment, and the calculation of macroinvertebrate densities from the wetland bottom and water column. These procedures can be applied to most macroinvertebrate species and communities that inhabit a variety of wetland sizes and types. Uses and applications can range from elementary and secondary environmental education to rigorous scientific evaluations of community abundance, diversity, distribution, or species-habitat relations.

Suggested Citation

Keith, B.R., Carleen, J.D., Larson, D.M., Anteau, M.J., and Fitzpatrick, M.J., 2022, Protocols for collecting and processing macroinvertebrates from the benthos and water column in depressional wetlands: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2022–1029, 22 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Field Protocols
  • Laboratory Protocols
  • Calculating Macroinvertebrate Densities
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Glossary
  • Appendix 1. Field Supplies List
  • Appendix 2. Acquiring a Modified Dip Net
  • Appendix 3. Detailed Instructions for Generating Survey Stations
  • Appendix 4. Macroinvertebrate Sample Collection and Preservation Protocols
  • Appendix 5. Field Data Sheets
  • Appendix 6. Laboratory Supply List
  • Appendix 7. Laboratory Data Sheets
  • Appendix 8. Directions for Building a Subsampling Apparatus
  • Appendix 9. Detailed Instructions for Macroinvertebrate Picking
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Protocols for collecting and processing macroinvertebrates from the benthos and water column in depressional wetlands
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2022-1029
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221029
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Description vi, 22 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details