Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


MARS Report Summary

Project ID: 603378
Funded under: FP7-ENVIRONMENT
Country: Germany

Periodic Report Summary 2 - MARS (Managing Aquatic ecosystems and water Resources under multiple Stress)

Project Context and Objectives:
MARS supports water managers and policy makers at the water body, river basin and European scales in the practical and modernised implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), taking account of related legislation, by:
• conducting new research and syntheses of existing knowledge concerning the effects and management of multiple stressors on surface water and groundwater bodies;
• advising the 3rd RBMP cycle and the revision of the WFD on integrating new indicator types to diagnose and predict changes in ecological status, ecosystem services and water quantity;
• developing and improving integrated tools to support decision making in Programmes of Measures (PoMs) to mitigate the effects of multiple stressors on water resources. These management tools are based on an enhanced process understanding and on quantified links between the status of water systems and ecosystem services, thus contributing to the toolbox proposed in the “Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources”.
Our specific objectives at the three different scales are:
• At the water body scale, to enhance the mechanistic understanding of how stressors interact and impact upon water resources, status and ecosystem services, and identify threshold responses to optimise stress reductions. We address stressor combinations and response variables characteristic for major European regions. A focus is on the effect of extreme climate events such as heavy rainfall, heatwaves as well as water scarcity and the effects of environmental flows.
• At the river basin scale, to characterise relationships between multiple stressors and ecological responses, functions, services and water resources, and assess the effects of future land use and mitigation scenarios. Work in 16 river basins in Europe, chosen to represent a wide range of multiple stress conditions, focuses on water scarcity and flow alterations (Southern Europe); hydrology, morphology and nutrient alterations (Central Europe); and hydrology and temperature alterations (Northern Europe).
• At the European scale, to identify the relationships among stress intensity, status and service provision, with a special focus on large transboundary rivers, lakes and fish as sentinels of multiple stressor impacts on biodiversity and direct providers of ecosystem services.
Finally, we aim at combining the newly generated information at the different scales with existing knowledge (WP6) in the form of information systems and diagnostic and predictive tools and guidances (WP7, WP8), applicable at the three spatial scales.
Project Results:
WP3 (multiple stressors at the water body scale) successfully finalised three mesocosm experiments on multiple stressor effects in standing waters and four experiments in artificial channels on multiple stressor effects in rivers. The lake experiments addressed the joint effects of temperature, rainfall and eutrophication; the effects of extreme heatwaves and nutrients; and the effects of nutrients, DOM and extreme mixing. The river experiments addressed the combined impacts of extreme climatic events (floods, low flow, thermal extremes), nutrient loading and morphological alterations on selected core indicators in rivers. The results give detailed insight into the effects of climatic extremes in combination with other stressors on ecosystem status and services.
WP4 (multiple stressors at the catchment scale) addressed the effects of commonly occurring stressor combinations in 16 case study basins throughout Europe. The case studies were made comparable through a harmonized data analysis strategy, commonly applied scenarios and a common conceptual model. In each of the 16 case study basins predictive linkage between human pressures and indicators of state and ecosystem services were established. The effects of climate change scenarios and of the programs of measures on the indicators of state and services were predicted. The stressor interactions observed are indicator-specific, water body-specific and region-specific. Combined indices and trait-based metrics were generally more responsive to multi-stressor combinations than sensitivity or tolerance metrics. Abiotic states showed a moderate to high capacity to explain changes in biotic indicators and similarly predict changes in ecosystem services indicators.
WP5 (multiple stressors at the European scale) generated a Europe-wide geo-database including data sources on the intensity of various stressors and water body status, and a European matrix of stress and impact (Task 5.1) resulting in a series of maps on the intensity of different stressor combinations and their effects on status. Ecosystem services are often positively correlated with the ecological status of European water bodies except for water provisioning, which strongly depends on the climatic and hydrographic characteristics of river basins. Separate tasks addressed multiple stressors in large rivers, multiple stressors in lakes and multiple stress effects on European fish assemblages in rivers, lakes and estuaries.
WP6 (synthesis: stressors, scenarios and water management) combined multi-stressor interactions and stressor response relationships resulting from the water body, river basin and European scales using a common data analysis protocol. Furthermore, water managers throughout Europe were addressed to sharpen the concepts of the MARS tools and the envisaged river basin manager guidance documents.
WP7 (multiple stressor tools) produced outlines and prototypes of four tools, namely a web-based information system providing access to information and tools generated by MARS and other projects; a diagnostic tool for water bodies based on Bayesian Belief Networks to identify the main stressor combinations affecting status and services; a model selection tool providing information on around 60 process-based and empirical models and guidance how best to combine them; and a scenario analysis tool at the European scale modelling stressors for about 100,000 catchments.
WP8 (policy support and dissemination) produced a draft guidance document for river basin managers for the 3rd River Basin Management Plan, based on an extensive workshop with 64 participants from 22 European countries. MARS closely cooperated with WFD-CIS working groups and the MAES freshwater group and prepared an e-conference on scientific input to WFD revision. Throughout the reporting period, the Freshwater Blog continuously reported about MARS results and the Freshwater Information Platform was prepared to host and continuously maintain MARS data, tools and results.
Potential Impact:
Overall, the MARS results will greatly enhance the empirical and mechanistic understanding on how multiple stressors affects the status, functions and services of water bodies. A multitude of detailed results will lead to 200 to 300 scientific papers. The final year of the project will mainly be dedicated to synthesize the results and to extract more generally applicable results.
We expect to considerably influence future water management in Europe and enable water managers to more easily identify the main stressors affecting water bodies, to select more effectively the best suited measures and to better predict the outcome of changes in stress intensity. This will be mediated by the MARS tools and the MARS river basin management guidance.
Finally, we expect to influence future European and national policies. In addition to a multitude of meetings with stakeholders and policy makers on various levels, we will continue to use a wide array of channels, including policy briefs, social media and a final project conference in Brussels.
List of Websites:


Kirsten Gercek, (EU Liaison Officer)
Tel.: +49 201 1832104
Fax: +49 201 1833265
Record Number: 199831 / Last updated on: 2017-06-21
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