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Knowledge, Assessment, and Management for AQUAtic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services aCROSS EU policies (AQUACROSS)

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - AQUACROSS (Knowledge, Assessment, and Management for AQUAtic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services aCROSS EU policies (AQUACROSS))

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2018-11-30

Aquatic ecosystems are home to an array of different species and habitats, and provide numerous benefits called ‘ecosystem services’ to society. These ecosystems are under significant threat by human activities. If aquatic ecosystem health continues its current decline, the negative effects will affect their capacity to provide ecosystem services and ultimately human well-being. In response, the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy has been put in place to tackle the loss of species and habitats and establish targets to protect and preserve biodiversity.
In an effort to halt biodiversity loss across freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems, the project AQUACROSS had the following four goals:
1. To support the implementation of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and thereby improve functioning of aquatic ecosystems as a whole;
2. To explore, advance and support the implementation of the ecosystem based-management concept, which is understood as management or policy options intended to restore, enhance and/or protect the ability of an ecosystem to remain in good health;
3. To specifically identify and test management and business models and tools to identify the benefits of aquatic ecosystems for stakeholders, businesses, and policy-makers; and,
4. To mobilise policymakers, businesses, and societal actors at global, EU, Member State, and case-study levels.
The key innovation of the project has been the interdisciplinary work across aquatic realms, which concludes with the launch of the AQUACROSS Ecosystem-Based Management Cookbook– a practical guide to ecosystem-based management for protecting aquatic biodiversity and a summary of AQUACROSS’s key results. It reflects 3.5 years of interdisciplinary research and practical case studies on protecting aquatic biodiversity in Europe’s lakes, rivers, coasts, and oceans. Specific tools developed within AQUACROSS to help increase understanding of aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity are the AQUACROSS Linkage Framework, the AquaLinks Tool and the AQUACROSS Information Platform. Each of these tools is designed to enable ecosystem-based management of aquatic biodiversity at different levels of application.
A further key achievement of the project has been the implementation of the AQUACROSS Assessment Framework in eight case studies. This provides eight real-world examples of applying ecosystem-based management in Europe’s inland, transitional, and marine waters to protect local biodiversity from a diverse range of threats.
All this material is publicly available in the project website ( and the zenodo public repository (
To increase the impact of project results, the AQUACROSS Cookbook consists of 38 interlinked and dynamic short thematic briefs covering all aspects of the project and targeting our lessons learned and conclusions to different audiences. The results of the project have been presented and discussed in different fora. Firstly at the project final conference to an EU policy level audience (Brussels, October 2018), secondly at different side events of the 2018 UN Biodiversity Conference to an international policy/practitioners audience (Egypt, November 2018), and thirdly at the Ecosystem Services Partnership Europe Regional Conference to the ecosystem services research for policy community (San Sebastian, Spain, October 2018). Finally, results have been shared with local stakeholders through dedicated dissemination activities in each of the AQUACROSS case studies.
A special journal issue and a book on Ecosystem Based Management, edited by AQUACROSS researchers are under preparation. At the local case study level, collaboration is continuing with local policy-makers to ensure that the results of the AQUACROSS project are exploited and make a long-term local impact.
AQUACROSS has furthered the science and practice of ecosystem-based management through the development of an integrative approach to efficiently, effectively, and equitably manage the sustainability of ecosystems and aquatic biodiversity to increase social welfare. The project validates the ecosystem-based management concept through application in 8 case studies by connecting science, policy, and business, as well as local stakeholders to achieve biodiversity protection goals and create lasting impact for the EU.
The project’s integrative research approach goes beyond current science by looking into how existing national and local policies, management measures and financing instruments help or hinder aquatic biodiversity conservation. The project documents how policy actions, from international to local scale, affect aquatic biodiversity. AQUACROSS results, methods and tools offer practical guidance on how to apply interdisciplinary ecosystem-based management science to protect biodiversity and optimise policies at the European and local levels.
AQUACROSS research and the practical examples support better local governance of aquatic ecosystems. Through enhanced protection and improved management practices in local areas, managers can maintain or even increase human health and well-being.
The integrative AQUACROSS approach allows the co-development of project outputs through participatory processes with stakeholders at the local level, enabling a sustainable shift in governance, as well as supporting innovation and business engagement. Knowing the importance biodiversity plays in providing valuable goods and services to society, AQUACROSS-generated knowledge can support innovation and cooperation with businesses to support aquatic biodiversity management that supports business and societal outcomes.
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