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Content archived on 2024-05-27

European mountain lake ecosystems: regionalisation, diagnostics & socio-economic evaluation


Problems to be solved· to assess the status of remote mountain lake ecosystems throughout Europe following the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive; · to provide an evaluation of our findings in ecological, environmental and socio-economic terms;· to provide decision makers with an overall understanding of remote mountain lakes so that appropriate policy and management measures can be taken at both European and national scales to ensure the sustainability of these ecosystems into the future. Scientific objectives and approach Most key processes needed for modelling and up-scaling are adequately understood, but we need to improve the understanding of the behaviour of trace organic and trace metal pollutants in mountain lake systems:· to understand the transport and partitioning of these pollutants in the lakes, including the sedimentary flux, speciation of metals and organics in the water column, and fluxes of dissolved substances across the water-sediment interface;· to understand how metals and organic pollutants are distributed and accumulate in the food chain, and to assess the physiological responses of fish to pollutants. To assess the status of mountain lakes throughout Europe effective up-scaling procedures need to be developed that involve rationalisation methods and the use of both empirical and process-based models to:· establish an effective network of lakes in each European mountain Lake District to fulfil three key functions:
(i) individual sites for experiment and long-term reference;
(ii) large numbers of sites for classification and model calibration; and
(iii) small numbers of different sites for model validation and detailed survey;· regionalist knowledge on mountain lakes, involving%l(i) extrapolation of climate parameters and pollutant deposition to all sites;
(ii) modelling lake/lake responses to pollutant input and climate/weather forcing, and
(iii) surveying and modelling biological relationships with environmental gradients;· create a Geographic Information System (GIS) for each Lake District. Using the GIS together with all other available data on remote mountain lakes an evaluation of the past, present and likely future status of these systems will be carried out to: · classify the ecological and chemical status of all lakes using multivariate statistical techniques for numerical ecology;· establish reference conditions for each site using historical sources, palate limn logical, historical and analogue matching techniques;· establish a series of chemical and biological indicators that can be used to monitor the status of mountain lakes and provide guidance criteria for lake management;· assess the extent to which remote mountain lakes are exposed to pollutant deposition that exceeds their critical loads;· assess the extent to which climate variability, separately from and in combination with pollutant stresses, is influencing and will in future influence the status of these lakes. On the basis of ecological and environmental understanding socio-economic and policy analysis of measures to mitigate the effects of air pollution on mountain lakes will be undertaken to:· assess the effectiveness of policies that use ecological standards for managing water quality, and assess the costs of deviating from ecological standards when policy measures such as gap allowance are used to avoid meeting set standards;· assess the preferences, values and policy attitudes towards mountain lakes and mountain environments by people taking into account their social, economic, cultural and geographical background;· provide a benefit and cost analysis of policies for protecting remote mountain lakes. A key objective of the project is to ensure that our results are made available to all end-users, especially environmental decision makers:· develop a user friendly database;· provide access to information via the Internet;· hold workshops with end-user groups. Expected impacts Community environmental objectives relevant to EMERGEEMERGE focuses essentially on the requirements of the proposed Water Framework Directive (COM (98) 76). However, because the ecological quality of mountain lakes is threatened more by atmospheric change than lake disturbance the project also has relevance to policies on air pollution (e.g. the UNECE Convention on Long-Range Tran boundary Air Pollution, (Council Decision 81/462/EEC - OJ L 171, 27.6.1981) and climate change (e.g. post-Kyoto strategies on Climate Change COM (98) 353).With respect to the proposed Water Framework Directive EMERGE will fulfil all its requirements with respect to mountain lakes. This includes:· collating, generating and assessing data on type parameters;· establishing normative definitions and classifying lakes;· classification of ecotypes;· monitoring of surface water status;· common presentation of results and harmonising classifications EMERGE results will also be of relevance to the EU's (and Uncle's) policies on energy, fossil fuel combustion and the long-range transport of air pollutants. This includes:· applying the critical loads concept to mountain lakes for both acidity, metals and Pops;· assessing the effectiveness of policies designed to regulate pollution streams. Previous research of lakes in relatively unpolluted regions of Europe demonstrates that mountain lake ecosystems are changing quite rapidly as a result of climate change. Consequently, climate change is probably also responsible for explaining some of the ecological changes that are occurring in lakes in more polluted environments and it may also be of indirect importance in influencing the behaviour of pollutants in lake/lake systems. EU post-Kyoto strategies on climate change will need to consider the impacts of these interactions between climate variability and pollution behaviour as well as the direct impacts of climate change on ecosystems. In this respect the results of EMERGE will be of value in assessing climate change impacts on mountain lake systems not only in Europe but throughout the world. Community social objectives relevant to EMERGEEMERGE will principally relate to Community social objectives through its contribution to environmental understanding and assessment. Work so far on mountain lakes has shown that all sites are threatened and many sites have already been altered by trans-boundary air pollutants and climate change, but it also shows sites (e.g. in Spain, parts of Norway and north-west Finland) where pollutant loads and impacts are low. One of the key goals of EMERGE is to assess the extent to which detailed observations at these sites are valid for whole regions. EMERGE also aims to quantify the degree of anthropogenic impact on mountain lakes across the whole of Europe thereby identifying regional disparities in pollution burdens and effects. In particular, the project will investigate the distribution and food-chain effects of trace metals and organic compounds in mountain lake ecosystems, and thereby contribute directly to an awareness of the extent and severity of such contamination which impinges directly upon aquatic organisms, and ultimately human health. In this way scientific and technical data will be provided that will potentially help to preserve, protect and improve mountain lake ecosystems across the EU and accord with EU social objectives. EMERGE will address the costs and benefits of actions, and lack of action, to premeditate degraded ecosystems. It will review international pollution abatement protocols in the context of Europe's most sensitive aquatic ecosystems. It will investigate the difference in values placed on remote environments across a range of social, economic and cultural frameworks and will assess how "willingness to pay" for protecting such environments varies with distance from these "resources". The methodologies developed in association with incorporating "non-use values" into these socio-economic assessments will comprise a valuable innovation and investigative tool in their own right. Mountain environments in general and mountain lakes in particular are perceived to be amongst the most natural, most pristine and most aesthetically attractive regions in Europe and the general public are concerned for their protection. Whereas one of the aims of EMERGE is to assess the extent of this concern with respect to the diverse social, economic, cultural and geographical backgrounds of EU citizens, it is also to inform and educate the population at large about the threats to these environments and the potential costs and associated implications of control and remediation measures. Developing a user-friendly integrated database will disseminate such information: GIS with a Web interface. EMERGE does not seek directly to develop technologies to address or mitigate the pollution of remote mountain lakes, but it will produce models, conceptual frameworks, suggest monitoring applications, and will review policy options to provide end-users and stakeholders with the information they need to act in the most technologically feasible and cost-effective manner. By convening a forum of end-users, and by contributing to others (e.g. the Alp Forum, the ENRICH Mountain Regions and Conservation Programme, ICALPE) EMERGE will promote a multidisciplinary approach to specific environmental issues that brings together scientists, managers, policy makers and Citizens in a pan-European context.
Physical lake simulation model.
-Measured and EMEP data used to extrapolate chemical deposition to all lake-districts. MAGIC model used for scenario testing of sulphur and nitrogen deposition at the regional scale; All deposition, soil and lake chemistry data subjected to a quality assurance routine.· MAGIC model used for regionalisation trials in selected lake-districts. Organochlorine compounds, the major POPs and PAHs measured in air, atmospheric deposition, snow, water, settling particles, sediments and fish. Heavy metals measured in water, settling particles, sediments and fish.
-Mechanisms for long-range atmospheric transport of POPs and PAHs over the European continent clarified substantially. Significant geographic differences related to pollutants use identified.
-Test for direct measurement of estrogenic effects based on recombinant yeast analysis (RYA) developed and used in sediment extracts and fish.
-A method for the analysis of hydroxy PAH in fish bile based on liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry developed.
-New persistent pollutants - brominated flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ether, PBDE and hexabromocyclododecan, HBCD), chloroparaffins and phthalates – identified for first time in fish (Arctic char, Salvelinus alpinus) from mountain lakes.
-Main trends of variability of key organisms across the main geographical and environmental gradients across Europe ascertained.
-Food-web structure in relation to environmental gradients modelled.
-Autecological data for classification and evaluation exercises generated.
-Detailed training of personnel, and accreditation of sampling and analyses of fish through compilation of EMERGE fish manual.
-Ana?Downscaling models established relating measured meteorological data to existing gridded climatic data. Air temperatures in EMERGE lake-districts reconstructed back to 1958 on a daily basis. Empirical models developed to model lake surface water temperatures and timing of ice-cover solely from air temperature and theoretical clear-sky solar radiation. Deterministic 1-D ice-snow cover model developed and coupled to a k-lysis of fish gill histology and blood plasma ions, stress indicators and hormonal effects. Analysis of POPs and heavy metals in various fish organs.
-Analysis of ä15N and ä13C to establish main carbon source for individual fish and hierarchy in the food chain, and compare to available food at time of sampling.
-Use of histology of gills and liver and measurements for oxidative stress to establish links to water quality and stressors like heavy metals and POPs.· Harmonised and geo-referenced dataset of large number of lakes (5160 documentary information, 357 surveyed) of comparable ecological characteristics and of pan-European coverage assembled, including vectorised lake and watershed outlines.· Satellite image modelling to provide extensive information on land cover characteristics of lake catchments and their predominant lithology.
-Different methods implemented to estimate in-lake properties (depth, volume, water residence time, thermal class, chemical class) from surrogate variables available from GIS data or satellite modelling, comprising basis for up-scaling findings from survey lakes to large sets of lakes within lake-districts.· Ecological and chemical status of mountain lakes in Europe and ecoregions and ecotypes defined.
-Reference conditions and divergence from reference conditions ascertained.· The most appropriate parameters for ecological and chemical status identified.· Criteria proposed for monitoring those lakes within the objectives of the WFD.
-SSWC, FAB and catchment models used to determine population of lakes exceeding critical loads in each lake-district.· MAGIC model used to test responses to UNECE scenarios according to the Gothenburg Protocol, and expected recovery assessed by comparing monitoring and sediment data with model predictions.
-Assessment made of relevance of mountain lake data for emission abatement targets in the EU.
-Review of current policy towards emissions regulation in Europe undertaken, and analysis of alternative emissions policies carried out.
-Estimates generated of economic value of remote mountain lakes. Social, economic, cultural and spatial impacts on preferences and values investigated by survey sampling. Variety of valuation methods investigated including contingent valuation, contingent ranking, choice experiments and stated preference/conjoint analysis.
-‘Delphi study’ undertaken to compare preferences of experts and respondents in terms of prioritising different lakes in terms of ‘ecological importance’, and to reveal importance of informational content of surveys.
-Easy-to-use web interface to the project final database developed.· EMERGE web site fully established providing information about the project to worldwide public and information services for project participants.

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