Conserving Europe's water bodies

Rivers, lakes and coastal areas are under pressure from human activities that result in pollution, intensive land use and the degradation of natural habitats. To better manage challenges in this area, an EU-funded project developed methods for assessing and restoring aquatic ecosystems.

Europe has made water protection one of its policy priorities. However, new systems to assess ecological status of water bodies need to be developed. The WISER (Water bodies in Europe: Integrative systems to assess ecological status and recovery) project set out to find a solution to this pressing issue.

Researchers analysed existing data covering all water categories from 118 databases compiled in previous and ongoing projects. They also conducted field sampling in rivers, lakes and coastal waters to assess the effects of restoration and management on recovery processes in these waters.

Based on literature reviews and analysis of over 700 research studies, models were developed to help river basin managers estimate the effect of restoration and mitigation measures. One of the project's goals was to also help identify measures that were potentially ineffective and rarely proven to be successful.

Project partners developed, tested and validated biological indicators for the assessment of European waters and communicated these to relevant expert groups involved in implementation of the EU Marine Strategy.

WISER facilitated the establishment of catchment management measures. The team provided guidelines for planning restoration measures and goals to achieve good ecological status, while taking into account different climate change scenarios. This was carried out within specific case study catchments.

The project also contributed to the establishment of programmes of management and restoration measures by compiling data on restoration success. Models were developed and used to determine the effects of restoration measures on ecological status. Management and restoration costs were assessed where possible and the risk of failing restoration targets was determined.

This information was used to draw up recommendations on how to design management strategies with the greatest beneficial impact on ecological status. Project outcomes also included information on the timescales needed to achieve good ecological status after management and/or restoration.

A number of practical results were achieved during the WISER project that can be applied to water body assessment and river basin management. In the future, the project's central database will be of great value, particularly for further research into aquatic organisms and ecosystem types.

last modification: 2015-08-21

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