European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results
Content archived on 2024-05-27

Development and testing of an integrated assessment system for the ecological quality of streams and rivers throughout europe using benthic macroinvertebrates


Problems to be solved
The EU Water Framework Directive defines a framework for assessing water-bodies in the future - however, the precise method for determining the ecological status is still to be defined. Hence, there is the requirement and the unique opportunity to establish a general assessment method for streams and rivers and to define general quality targets for running waters throughout Europe. The assessment system should consider different impact factors enabling a holistic assessment of streams. With this project we will lay the scientific foundations for such a method, develop the method and start the transfer to applied water management.
Scientific objectives and approach
The aim of the project is to develop and test an assessment procedure for streams and rivers which meets the demands of the EU Water Framework Directive using benthic macro invertebrates. In all, partners from 8 EU member states participate. Therefore, the method developed will be tested in many parts of Europe and will, hence, be applicable in most ecoregions in Europe. The partners represent a transect from northern to southern Europe (Scandinavia to Central-Mediterranean area) and another transect from the Iberian Peninsula to the Eastern Mediterranean. The assessment system will be based on the outlines of a European stream typology and on the fauna of near-natural reference streams. The biological and a biotic data sets of reference sites and impacted sites should be entirely comparable and of a high scientific quality. Therefore, it is necessary to collect new data sets in both a sophisticated and economic way: the North-South and East-West sampling transects give the possibility of inter-comparisons in methodology and assessment concepts between ecoregions. The method developed will be adapted to regional conditions in order to allow comparable use in all EU member states. It will be combined with selected methods for stream assessment and indication currently used in the EU member states. If current methods supply additional information for certain regions, they will be included in the assessment system as additional modules. Databases on European macro invertebrate taxa used for the assessment system will be generated. Finally, the transfer of the developed method into water management application will be started, via a manual and a PC program.
Expected impacts
The proposed project serves precise and long-term implementation of EU policies addressing questions in the area of water and surface waters protection. Securing and maintaining a high ecological quality of streams, the improvement of the quality and prevention of further deterioration are important targets of the EU as defined in article 1 of the EU Water Framework Directive. These aims must be based on methods for indication and assessment of the ecological status. The project will supply the EU member states with a tool for assessing the ecological river quality. Project goal is to transfer data from basic research areas to applied water management. Therefore, the participation of both scientific institutes and partners from applied water management is crucial. The consortium is designed correspondingly. Furthermore, the project will help to define and harmonise quality targets for streams and rivers in Europe. Particularly, ecosystems like running waters, which are sometimes located in more than one state and/or transport pollution from one state to another, require general quality targets. The current view of aquatic ecosystems focuses on ecological functioning. Besides their contribution to the maintenance of biodiversity, near-natural streams have various functions of direct importance to society, e.g. supply of water, self-purification, recreation, retention of water and sediment. These benefits can mainly be supplied by unpolluted streams with a near-natural morphology. High ecological quality is coherent with high functionality. We are, therefore, convinced that the method developed will be capable of indicating those aspects of stream functionality. A long-term, sustainable use of stream ecosystems needs the definition of quality targets.

Call for proposal

Data not available


EU contribution
No data

See on map

Total cost
No data

Participants (12)