European Commission logo
italiano italiano
CORDIS - Risultati della ricerca dell’UE
Contenuto archiviato il 2024-05-29

Integrated Project to Evaluate the Impacts of Global Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems

Final Report Summary - EURO-LIMPACS (Integrated project to evaluate the impacts of global change on European freshwater ecosystems)

Global climate is rapidly changing, beyond the range of previous natural variability. This imposes significant pressures to ecosystems, which are already under stress due to land use change and pollution, and raises serious threats to human society since the availability and quality of freshwater determines ecosystems' functioning.

Ecosystems are so complex that predicting and managing the ecological consequences of global change requires great expertise, new methods and comprehensive, innovative approaches. Therefore, the EURO-LIMPACS project had the following objectives:

1. to improve understanding on how global, and particularly climate, change modifies the structure and operation of European freshwater ecosystems
2. to encapsulate this understanding in the form of predictive, testable models
3. to identify key taxa, structures or processes that clearly indicated impending or realised global change through their loss, occurrence or behaviour
4. to provide better approaches for the re-naturalisation of ecosystems and habitats that would lead to the successful implementation of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD)
5. to provide guidance in the form of useable models, decision support systems (DSS) and other appropriate tools to respond to the interactions between climate and other changes
6. to communicate this information and understanding to users, stakeholders and the general public.

The project implemented five research approaches, namely analysis of long-term data sets, paleoecological methods, space for time substitution, experimental techniques and development of ecosystem models. It was organised in 10 distinct, yet interrelated, work packages (WPs), with each of them having numerous partial goals that were successfully achieved. WP1 focussed on the direct impacts of climate change. WP2 examined the climate and hydromorphology interactions. Its achievements could be broadly split into seven research strands relevant to rivers and lakes, which ranged from catchment to habitat scale and referred to future assessment, restoration and nutrient retention.

On the other hand, WP3 identified the interactions between climate and eutrophication in order to determine whether they would act strongly together or remain largely independent. Relevant knowledge was significantly advanced thanks to the implemented experimental approach. In addition, WP4 identified the interactions between climate and acidification in stream and lake ecosystems, focussing on leaching of nitrogen (N), dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and sulphate (SO4). Climate change proved to be a confounding factor since it could exacerbate or ameliorate the rate and degree of acidification and recovery with respect to chemical and biological effects. The interactions between climate and toxic substances, i.e. pollutants, were also investigated as part of WP5.

WP6 was devoted to integrated catchment analysis and simulation through the development of a state of the art modelling tool kit. Indicators for the effects of climate change on lakes, rivers and wetlands along with their pathways, importance and the magnitude of change were suggested as part of WP7. Indicators were chemical, hydrological, morphological, biological or functional parameters which reflected key processes influenced by climate change and were relatively simple to monitor. Given this scope of works, WP7 focussed on producing exploitable databases and websites providing information on distribution patterns and ecological preferences of indicators and taxa.

Furthermore, WP8 was concerned with the establishment and validation of reference conditions and restoration targets and strategies. Tools for catchment management and integrated decision support were developed as part of WP9. The designed DSS addressed catchment management problems using a spatially explicit multi-criteria analysis (MCA) and acted as a framework for the integration of existing modelling or monitoring data across a spectrum of environmental, social or economic variables. Finally, WP10 was related to dissemination and training activities that occurred throughout the work programme. The main exploitable knowledge consisted of an expert DSS for stakeholders and end users, numerous databases, bibliography of all scientific publications, popular science and media releases and the EURO-LIMPACS website.

The project performed extensive innovative research on a wide range of global parameters related to climate. Nevertheless, its impact in the research field and beyond could not be comprehensively determined without enough time lapsing for its effects to be shown. However, the reaction of the scientific and research community regarding EURO-LIMPACS results was highly favourable, raising expectations for the potential effects of the produced knowledge in relevant scientific fields.