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AQUACROSS interviews address gender equality in research

November 17, 2017


By Manuel Lago, AQUACROSS coordinator

This is the first of a series of blog posts introducing AQUACROSS, an EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation project sponsored by DG Research.


AQUACROSS seeks to advance the application of ecosystem-based management for aquatic ecosystems in an effort to support the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and other international conservation targets. AQUACROSS aims to develop and test an assessment framework which considers the full array of interactions, including human activities, within aquatic ecosystems. The application of the framework is tested in eight case studies across Europe.

AQUACROSS is a truly transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary research effort. Work in the case studies is co-developed with local stakeholders, and need to address complex socio-ecological systems integrates numerous different research disciplines including marine and freshwater ecologists, environmental modellers and social scientists. The project has been running since June 2015 and it is expected to conclude at the end of 2018.

AQUACROSS interview series

We would like to thank the Freshwater Blog for giving us the opportunity to present AQUACROSS. Starting next week, a series of blog posts over the coming months will feature interviews with some of the researchers involved in the project with the aim of introducing different aspects of our work in more detail.

A total of 72 researchers from 16 different research institutions across Europe are involved in AQUACROSS. A selection of these researchers will introduce their diverse research topics and motivations in interviews on the blog.

AQUACROSS and gender equality

We would like to use this opportunity to contribute towards the movement of raising awareness for gender equality. In the field of scientific research, for example. the statistics are well-known. According to a 2015 EU report, only around a third of researchers in the EU, and 20% of the heads of higher education institutions in Europe, are female. This is despite the fact that (according to the same data), 59% of undergraduate degrees went to women, while 46% of PhD graduates are female.

In the field of ecology, where around 70% of the scientific articles are led by men, new evidence (see here and here) suggests that there exists a significant bias in favour of male-led research. So not only there are fewer female ecologists publishing fewer papers in relation to male colleagues; controversially, women’s research is also perceived by their peers as to be of lower quality, according to a recent article by Corey J. A. Bradshaw and Franck Courchamp. The clear message is that, despite widespread progress on the issue, further promotion of the work of female researchers is urgently needed.

In this context, gender equality is one of the priorities of a “Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth” (ERA). The European Commission’s actions specifically call for the removal of barriers to the recruitment, retention and career progression of female researchers. Further specific actions also address issues of gender balance in decision-making and research programmes.

Under Horizon 2020, gender equality is a mainstreamed cross-cutting ambition promoting a more integrated approach to research and innovation. This means in practice that grant beneficiaries in H2020 projects are committed to promote equal opportunities and a balanced participation of women and men at all levels in research and innovation teams and in management structures. Specifically in AQUACROSS, gender balance translates into a proportion of 37 female and 35 male researchers working on the project.



The women featured in this AQUACROSS interview blog series will share their common passion for aquatic biodiversity and conservation, their motivations to advance scientific knowledge, and their stellar achievements on this path.

Ultimately, in outstanding research there are no genders. We as researchers share a passion for providing answers and transferring our science to others, with the pledge to leave behind a better world than the one we found. The featured interviews in this blog series will showcase the progress that these AQUACROSS researchers are carrying out towards this goal.

Watch this space for the first interview with Andrea Funk, published next week.



Sketching another world: Stephen Thackeray’s aquatic art/science drawings

November 7, 2017

An ostracod – a tiny crustacean with a bean-like shell. Image: Stephen Thackeray

At the start of last month, a succession of drawings of curious organic forms began appearing on our twitter feed. Penned by CEH and MARS freshwater scientist Stephen Thackeray as part of ‘Inktober‘, the images revealed a fascinating underwater world of often-microscopic aquatic life.

Keen to find out more about his interdisciplinary talents, we spoke to Stephen about his art/science practice.

Freshwater Blog: What is Inktober, and why did you decide to take part this year?

Stephen Thackeray: Inktober is an annual artistic challenge hosted on Twitter (see @inktober). Anyone can join in, and the goal is to do one ink drawing every day during the month of October. However, it is fine if you only want to commit to a drawing every other day, or a drawing per week. It’s all good! I joined in for the first time in 2016, having spotted references to the challenge via people who I follow.

I must admit, it took some courage to join in, but I ultimately found Inktober a great way of connecting with creative people, and feeling part of something bigger, collaborative and joyous. For someone who greatly admires creativity as a trait in others, this was very exciting. There are some amazing talents out there; check out the bold and exciting pieces by @bernoid, for instance. After enjoying 2016 so much, I was very keen to join in again in 2017 even though, at the time, I wasn’t sure I had 31 ideas in my head!

Water boatman

Water boatman. Image: Stephen Thackeray

How long have you had a creative drawing practice, and how has it influenced (or been influenced by) your interest in the natural world?

Drawing was one of my favourite things to do as a child, and I have happy memories of scribbling away with felt tips with my cousins at that time. I took that interest through to a GCSE in Art, but I felt a little unnerved by the level of skill being shown by those students intending to take higher qualifications in the subject, and I decided not to follow that path.

Over time, much as I enjoy art, I simply fell out of the habit. I got back into drawing just a couple of years ago. I think this was partly triggered by hunting out natural history books, in second-hand bookshops, to look at the plates and images in them. I have always loved wildlife and it seemed a pretty straightforward decision that, if I was going to get back into drawing, I would do so by drawing wildlife.


Zander and roach. Image: Stephen Thackeray

Tell us a little about your creative process: what do you choose to draw, how do you get a reference image, where do you draw, and what materials do you use?

So far, I have indulged my interest in freshwater wildlife. I’m especially drawn to the tiny and obscure, occupying little hidden worlds that many people may be totally unaware of. All the dramas and excitement of the Serengeti play out in miniature every day in your local lake, pond, canal or bird bath. I like the idea of bringing these tiny creatures, and their lives, into focus for others.

Usually, I search on the web and in books for reference images taken from lots of different angles. I then use these to draw my subject from a different perspective. I usually work by lamplight in the evenings, and have fairly basic kit: some inexpensive black fine liners and pencils (and my daughter’s felt tips, occasionally). I used to get frustrated that my style wasn’t precise or life-like enough – a bit “cartoony”- but now I think I’ve realised that this is how my work comes out, and that there is nothing wrong with that.


Daphnia and microplastics. Image: Stephen Thackeray

One of my favourite images from your Inktober series is the daphnia surrounded by an array of microplastics. Can drawing – and creative practices more generally – provide ways of visualising such emerging environmental issues, do you think? Can they be useful in supporting conservation and environmental policy, as a result?

I’d like to think so. As researchers, we use certain tried-and-tested media for communicating with each other about our science, such as published academic papers, reports and presentations. However, these outputs only reach our own academic network much of the time, and people can differ greatly in their learning and thinking styles (mine is very visual). Given all of this, I think that imagery and artistic interpretation of science has the potential to reach a much wider audience, and to resonate with more people. Perhaps artistic interpretation provides us with a powerful way of engaging people with science and emerging environmental issues.

There is some excellent science communication (#scicomm) on Twitter, with @HanaAyoob illustrating endangered species, @JuliaFpaintsbio drawing freshwater mussels on request for Inktober 2017, @ConnectedWaters and @murray_taryn introducing us to a multitude of fish species, and @jvcdelaney creating a scientific colouring book about microscopic life. I’ve found their efforts really imaginative and inspiring.

Tadpole shrimp

The tadpole shrimp. Image: Stephen Thackeray

Interdisciplinary art/science collaborations are springing up all over the world – can you imagine bringing your creative practice into your ‘day job’ as an ecologist, or bringing ‘artists in residence’ to CEH?

I can see the potential synergies between art and science as, fundamentally, I believe that the latter has a strong creative element. Science is so often about using creativity to think about problems in new ways, or about how to combine existing knowledge in new ways. I would love to have a thread of creativity running through my own research career.

As a small start, I have set myself a new challenge; to draw a sketch for each new paper that I publish (#sketchmypaper on Twitter). I would love others to try this out too, to see how it might affect the visibility of our work. I’m intrigued by the idea of having an “artist in residence”, to help us find new ways of reaching out. In fact, I would love to see a workshop attended by scientists and artists, to see what interpretations of the latest research might fall out as a result.

Sketch paper

#sketchmypaper for a Nature Ecology & Evolution article on ecological resilience in lake ecosystems. Image: Stephen Thackeray

Follow Stephen on Twitter, and find out more about his research here.

New interactive map illustrates multiple pressures on European rivers

November 1, 2017

freshwater pressure atlas

In January 2014 the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas was launched online. The Atlas aims to provide policy-makers, water managers and scientists with an open-access and interactive online gateway to key geographical information and spatial data on freshwater biodiversity across different scales. The Atlas is a resource for better, evidence-based decision-making in water policy, science and management.

A few weeks ago, a new map showing ‘Multiple Pressures on European Rivers‘ was published on the Atlas. The map was developed from research in the EU MARS project, and illustrates the relationships between multiple pressures (such as nutrient pollution, water abstraction and habitat alterations) and ecological status in rivers across Europe.

The research team argue that combined or single pressures do not cause a significant deterioration of ecological status, as long as they do not exceed threshold values. Their new European multi-pressure map illustrates the number of pressure indicators which exceed the threshold value for good ecological status in catchments across the continent. In short, it shows where pressures are causing environmental deterioration in European rivers.

The pressures are those that are ranked as the four most important affecting the ecological status of a river. In more than 60 % of the catchments included in this analysis, at least one pressure exceeded its threshold value. Pressures above threshold values for good ecological status were most commonly found in Mediterranean, Central European and Baltic catchments.

Morphological pressures were the most common cause of deteriorating ecological status (38% of catchments), followed by nutrient pressures (26%) and hydrological alterations (12%). Around 5% of European catchments had at least three significant pressures above threshold values acting in tandem. These were mostly in Central European and Baltic catchments.

The study and map provides useful information for river managers seeking to understand multiple pressure impacts and mitigation. In addition, it may help environmental policy-makers to take upcoming decisions on water management.

The Atlas is designed to develop in the future through collaborations with other research projects. The Atlas editors invite scientists to submit their freshwater-related spatial research results, which will then be further discussed in the editorial board and eventually published online in one of the Atlas chapters. Each map should be accompanied by a short summary article.

Publishing maps on the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas is a highly useful way for scientists to increase the visibility and impact of their research.

View the Multiple Pressures on European Rivers map on the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas here.

Artificial lighting along banks of rivers and lakes alters riparian ecology

October 25, 2017
Street Lamp

Street lamps can alter insect communities along the banks of rivers and lakes. Image: John | Flickr Creative Commons

Artificial lighting beside rivers and lakes can significantly alter the dynamics of aquatic insect populations and their predators, according to a new study. The findings of a new open-access paper published in Frontiers in Environmental Science show how nocturnal lighting along waterways attracts large numbers of insects, which in turn attracts predators such as spiders.

“Artificial lighting at night-time is a major component of and a threat to biodiversity,” explains lead author Alessandro Manfrin, a researcher at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and now the Environmental Campus Birkenfeld, University of Applied Sciences Trier. “This is particularly true near rivers and lakes, where human populations are concentrated.”

The researchers suggest that artificial night-time lighting is increasing worldwide at a rate of approximately 3-6% a year. Recent studies (here, here and here, for example) have documented how increasing light pollution can affect ecosystems, particularly in how it might disrupt the daily and seasonal rhythms – such as hibernation, reproduction and hunting – of animal lives.

Artificial lights along the edges of rivers and lakes (in what is often termed the ‘riparian zone‘) thus have the potential to alter the interactions between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In part, this is important because ecological science and policy is increasingly focused on these interactions through ‘landscape scale‘ and ‘catchment based‘ approaches to research and management.

Westhavelland Nature Park

Westhavelland Nature Park in north-east Germany – the Dark Sky Reserve where the study was undertaken. Image: Pascal Volk | Flickr Creative Commons

Identifying the ecological effects of light pollution in ecosystems affected by numerous other pressures is difficult. Urban ecosystems where artificial lighting is common are often subject to multiple pressures including habitat loss, nutrient pollution and water abstraction.

In order to isolate the effects of light pollution, Manfrin and colleagues set up an experimental series of street lamps beside two different drainage ditches in a nature reserve in north-east Germany. The Westhavelland Nature Park is one of the least illuminated areas in Germany, and is located within a 750-km2 International Dark Sky Reserve.

The street lamps along one ditch were turned on each night, whilst the lamps along the other were permanently left switched off. Over a two-year period, the researchers used traps to identify the types of insects and other invertebrates present along each ditch. The research team found that there were significantly higher numbers of insects at the artificially illuminated ditch than the one left in darkness.

Insects arrived in two main ways. First, more aquatic insects left the water in the illuminated ditch. The researchers suggest that this may be because the lights made it easier for larger fish to hunt and eat smaller fish that normally prey on insects, allowing more insects to survive.

Second, the illuminated lamps attracted large numbers of flying insects, compared with the lamps that were switched off. The swarms of insects at the illuminated ditches attracted predator species to the grass around the lamp posts. “The abundance of several nocturnal spiders increased at the illuminated bank, and their activity was extended into the day,” says Manfrin. However, the abundance of nocturnal ground beetles decreased at the illuminated ditches.

Artificial lighting is increasingly common along the banks of freshwater ecosystems across the world. This new study adds to a growing body of evidence on how artificial illumination can affect ecosystems on the edge of water and land,

“We showed that artificial light affects insect behaviour, and that this has the potential to change ecosystem dynamics,” says Manfrin. “It is important to account for potential ecological impacts when designing new lighting concepts, and these and other similar results should be considered by landscape and urban planners, lighting engineers, and terrestrial and aquatic ecologists.”

Manfrin A et al (2017) Artificial Light at Night Affects Organism Flux across Ecosystem Boundaries and Drives Community Structure in the Recipient Ecosystem, Frontiers in Environmental Science, 5 (61)

The partial success of the Water Framework Directive: a result of implementation rather than intent?

October 17, 2017

The River Danube at Vác in Hungary. The Danube river basin covers 10% of continental Europe. Image: Kikasz | Flickr Creative Commons

The European Union Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires all EU Member States to improve the quality of their surface and ground waters to ‘good’ ecological and chemical status or potential. However, despite some positive progress since its adoption in 2000, nearly half of EU surface waters still do not reach good ecological status.

A recent study led by Dr Nick Voulvoulis, Professor in Environmental Technology at Imperial College’s Centre for Environmental Policy, investigated why the ‘great expectations’ that came with the WFD have not yet been fully realised.

The research was undertaken through GLOBAQUA, an EU FP7 research project, which studies the effects of multiple stressors on aquatic ecosystems under water scarcity. The project is generating a range of water policy and management recommendations on how emerging threats to aquatic systems could be mitigated.

Writing in Science of the Total Environment, Voulvoulis and colleagues reviewed EU policy documents to identify how the WFD has been interpreted in environmental management, focusing on its intentions and how they have been applied across Europe. They suggest that there is a widespread absence in environmental policy and management of the integrated ‘systems thinking’ that the WFD was grounded on. In essence, they suggest that the partial success of the WFD is largely due to its implementation rather than its intention.

One systems approach in the WFD is the Drivers-Pressures-State-Impacts-Responses (DPSIR) framework, which draws links between environmental effects, their causes and management. Others include ‘catchment-based approaches’ and ‘integrated river basin management’, which call for aquatic systems to be managed as part of a linked landscape-scale system including terrestrial, freshwater, transitional and groundwater ecosystems.

Voulvoulis and colleagues suggest that the ideals of such systems approaches can be lost when the WFD is applied at national level (for example, in Italy in 2012). They suggest that some EU member states have struggled to characterise and monitor aquatic pressures, impacts and economic effects in ways that support catchment-based management.

A key shortfall they identify is in the monitoring of multiple pressures and their impacts, and how this translates to effective management (see also the 2012 Fitness Check of EU Freshwater Policy for similar findings). The authors suggest that ecological monitoring of aquatic systems can too often be focused on the ‘symptoms rather than the cause’ of poor status, identifying individual elements (such as pollutants) without adequately managing their sources in the wider landscape system.

The authors cite the 4th WFD Implementation Report from 2015, which shows that for 21 out of 27 Member States there were no clear links between aquatic pressures and their WFD Programme of Measures (i.e. their environmental management approach). Similarly, 23 out of 27 Member States had not effectively implemented a gap analysis to develop appropriate water management measures.

In short, Voulvoulis and colleagues suggest that the limited success of the WFD is due to the “reductionist implementation of a systems directive”. They identify common misunderstandings of the Directive’s core principles as potential barriers to its successful implementation.

“EU water policies are still in need of the paradigm shift towards the WFD aspirations, embracing its holistic, integrated and interdisciplinary approach,” says Professor Voulvoulis. “Catchments are composed of highly interdependent human and natural systems and due to this complex web of interactions; WFD implementation based on catchment management was never going to be an easy process.”

Professor Voulvoulis states, “The WFD offers a platform for system-level shifts that need to take place, and unless it is recognised for this, a real opportunity for collective action will be missed. It is clear that implementing the WFD like any other directive is not going to work. Unless current implementation efforts are reviewed or revised, allowing the Directive to deliver its systemic intent in order to reach its full potential, the fading aspirations of the initial great expectations could disappear for good.”

Freshwater megafauna as conservation flagships?

October 10, 2017

The arapaima, a fish native to the Amazon Basin, which can grow to over 3 metres in length. Image: Lynn Chan | Flickr Creative Commons

Freshwater megafauna such as sturgeon, river dolphins and turtles could act as valuable ‘flagships’ for freshwater conservation, according to a new open-access study published in the journal BioScience.

In the last decade or so, it has become apparent that freshwater biodiversity is both highly threatened, and is decreasing at a higher rate than its terrestrial or marine counterparts. In part, this awareness can be mapped to an influential – and highly cited – 2006 paper by David Dudgeon and colleagues.

Despite the multiple threats and pressures faced by freshwater ecosystems across the world, they tend to receive less conservation attention, research and investment than their terrestrial and marine equivalents. In their new paper, lead author Dr. Savrina F. Carrizo (IUCN) and Dr. Sonja Jähnig (Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, IGB) together with other IGB researchers and a team of international co-authors, suggest that freshwater megafauna could provide a focus for conservation action by acting as flagships for overlooked aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity.

Flagship species

The flagship species concept in conservation is nothing new: rhinos, elephants, tigers and whales have been used for decades to gain public attention for environmental issues. Such charismatic, iconic, and popular animals can help attract media coverage and outside investment, and potentially help legitimise and communicate wider conservation messages.

The use of flagship species is sometimes linked to the ‘umbrella’ ecological model, where the conservation of flagship species – such as the giant panda in China, and jaguars in Central and South America – may benefit other flora and fauna in the protected ecosystems in which they live.

Given the limited time and funding available to many conservation organisations, and the often incomplete scientific knowledge of imperilled ecosystems, the flagship species concept provides a popular and promising tool for conservation planning across the world. But how might it help benefit freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity?


The American Alligator. Image: Valerie | Flickr Creative Commons

Freshwater megafauna status and threats

The authors of the new study – originally supported by the EU BioFresh project – argue that there are a number of freshwater ‘megafauna’ species, whose large size and spectacular appearance could help generate public interest for ‘hidden’ freshwater issues. Potential flagship candidates include the beluga sturgeon, American alligator, Yangtze finless porpoise, and the Caspian seal.

The research team assessed the conservation potential of such species in a three-part study. The first part of their study provided an assessment of the geographical distribution and conservation status of global freshwater megafauna. This required a definition of which animals could be called ‘megafauna’ – a term which could be interpreted to mean any ‘large animal’. The researchers decided that freshwater animals above 30kg in mass would qualify as ‘megafauna’.

The researchers then chose 132 megafauna species – 73 fishes, 36 reptiles and 23 mammals – which were seen as well-known or iconic. Over half (58%) of the 107 species assessed for the IUCN Red List were classified as threatened. Multiple pressures threatening their populations include overexploitation, habitat alteration, and pollution. The baiji and Chinese paddlefish have not been directly detected over the last decade, and are classified as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct). Six other species are Near Threatened, six more lack sufficient information to assess their conservation status, and twenty-five have not been evaluated for the Red List.

In short, despite their high visibility in many cases, freshwater megafauna species are widely threatened across the world, and their ecological status may be even worse than current assessments suggest.

baikal seal

Two ‘charismatic’ Baikal seals basking on the banks of Lake Baikal. Image: Sergey Gabdurakhmanov | Flickr Creative Commons

Shortfalls in freshwater megafauna conservation

The researchers found that freshwater megafauna inhabit every continent except Antarctica, and mostly occur in large rivers and lakes. Southeast Asia and the Amazon Basin are particularly high in megafauna biodiversity. However, over three-quarters (84%) of global freshwater megafauna populations are found outside of protected areas. Only two – the Baikal seal and the Ungava seal – have more than half of their range in protected areas. Large rivers such as the Mekong and Ganges are particularly poorly protected.

The researchers suggest that this shortfall in existing protected area coverage presents a conservation opportunity. They argue that freshwater megafauna distributions can help guide the targets and boundaries of new protected areas or catchment management programmes. If successful, the research team state, such ‘megafauna-shaped’ protected areas have the potential to attract significant financial, public and political support for freshwater conservation.

Conservation potential of megafauna as ‘umbrella’ species

Would such new protected areas, or catchment management zones, benefit other non-megafauna freshwater biodiversity? This question guided the second part of the study, in which the researchers assessed the spatial overlap between the distributions of all freshwater biodiversity, and those of the selected 132 megafauna species.

They found that 93% of the distribution ranges for all assessed freshwater species co-occur with megafauna species, and 60% of the world’s threatened freshwater species are found within the collective megafauna range. Whether megafauna can act as ‘umbrella species’ for the protection of wider biodiversity is unclear, in part due to knowledge gaps about their often complex and dynamic lifecycles and uncertainty over their ecological roles.


The Beluga, or European sturgeon. Image: Charlene N Simmons | Flickr Creative Commons

Gaps in knowledge of freshwater megafauna

New scientific research is now required to generate baseline information on megafauna species, to help guide evidence-based conservation, in part through comprehensive Red List assessments. This is the focus of the third and final section of the new study, which provides a ‘horizon scan’ of the steps needed to promote freshwater megafauna flagships as a conservation tool.

The researchers suggest that in addition to new scientific data on the species, it is important to better understand their diverse (and often local) valuations by different social and cultural groups, including fishers, environmental managers, water resource users, local communities and indigenous people.

Linked to this, they suggest that the contribution of freshwater megafauna to the provision of ecosystem services – such as tourism, recreation and fishing – requires further investigation. A key challenge here is likely to be that many ecosystem services provided by freshwater megafauna are purely extractive, and can lead to overexploitation, as has been seen in beluga populations in the River Danube in Eastern Europe.

river dolphin

A fleeting sighting of an Amazon river dolphin. Image: Michiel van Nimwegen | Flickr Creative Commons

Freshwater megafauna and environmental policy

The authors of the new study suggest that the role of freshwater megafauna as ‘conservation flagships’ may help policy makers identify important areas for conservation and help them meet global environmental legislation and targets. 29 freshwater megafauna species are listed in the Convention on Migratory Species, and 74 in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Freshwater megafauna conservation also has the potential to help meet conservation goals in the Aichi Targets, restoration goals in the Ramsar Convention, and UN Sustainable Development Goals, they suggest.

Freshwater megafauna as flagships?

Of course, a key question is, if freshwater megafauna have such potential for conservation, then why haven’t they been deployed in the same way as tigers, pandas and whales, as yet? Do the physical characteristics of many freshwater ecosystems – variously turbulent, opaque, or otherwise off-limits to humans – restrict the potential of aquatic flagships?

The authors of this paper suggest that this might not be the case, and that freshwater megafauna offer an, as yet, overlooked conservation opportunity equivalent to the terrestrial megafauna. They propose that freshwater megafauna species might act as productive ‘flagships’, both to guide freshwater conservation planning, and to attract public, political and financial support for it.

Their study provides a number of important steps towards this goal, showing how freshwater megafauna are widely distributed globally, often have threatened populations, and have significant geographical overlaps with other freshwater biodiversity.

You can read the open-access paper online here.


The data used in this study will be archived through the Freshwater Information Platform, and the metadata published through the Freshwater Metadata Journal.

View the freshwater megafauna maps from this article in the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas online.

The Freshwater Information System is launched

October 5, 2017

fis screenToday the Freshwater Information System (or FIS) is officially launched. The FIS provides an invaluable resource for water managers and environmental policy makers across Europe, hosting information on freshwater multiple stressors and pressures, future scenarios, models and management options.

Resources on the Freshwater Information System have been generated through research in the EU MARS project over the last 3 years. Part of the Freshwater Information Platform, the FIS provides an accessible introductory gateway to the complex topic of multiple stressor interactions and impacts on freshwater ecosystems.

The FIS factsheets, case studies and model selection tool provide up-to-date research to help water managers and policy makers effectively implement the EU Water Framework Directive.


The Drivers-Pressures-States-Impacts-Responses model (DPSIR) used to structure the factsheets.

Users can browse concise and engaging factsheets on the drivers of freshwater pressures and their impacts along with options for management and mitigation. Additional factsheets outline the relationships between freshwater pressures and ecosystem services. Finally, a range of ‘storylines’ for future potential environmental scenarios are detailed under different forecasts for single and multiple stressors.

Thirteen European case studies on the impact of multiple stressors in river basins under present conditions and future scenarios. The case studies – drawn from MARS research – provide a valuable overview of multiple stressor impacts in diverse environments across the continent. Finally, a model selection tool presents twenty-one widely applied models for river basin management planning.

fis case studies map

The thirteen river basin case studies across Europe.

In January 2018, guidelines supporting the 3rd cycle of river basin management planning for the Water Framework Directive will be available and accessible on the Freshwater Information System.

The Freshwater Information System was developed by Deltares in the Netherlands, in co-operation with the University of Duisburg-Essen, Dept of Aquatic Ecology in Germany. The information is based on contributions from the entire MARS consortium.

Explore the Freshwater Information System here.

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