The first ideas of a future 'saprobiological approach' can be traced back to the first half of the nineteenth century but the substantive development of saprobic techniques
started at the beginning of the twentieth century. The saprobic system was developed, first of all, by limnologists from Germany, Austria, and the former Czechoslovakia. Consequently, it has been applied mostly in these Central European countries. Naturally, the system was fine-tuned and modified in different ways mainly in the 1950s and 1960s, in the period when organic pollution of surface waters had become a dominant problem of applied limnology. Nevertheless, the saprobic system, allowing the evaluation of the ecological state of predominantly running waters, is still being used, for example, within the intentions and aims of the EU Water Framework Directive. Contrary to earlier classification scales that did not distinguish between the different types of waters, a type-specific approach and the evaluation of localities in relation to defined reference conditions are now being used.
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