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Common ground for multiple stressor research

March 22, 2017

Researchers from MARS, GLOBAQUA and SOLUTIONS meet in Portugal. Image: Vanessa Bremerich / Markus Venohr

Last week, researchers from three EU aquatic science projects – MARS, GLOBAQUA and SOLUTIONS – met in Sesimbra, Portugal to present their findings, and to discuss opportunities for collaboration. The three projects share a common interest in the effects of multiple stressors on aquatic ecosystems, and their representatives met at a workshop to develop the potential for shared outputs such as policy briefs and water management guidance.

The workshop was structured in seven parts where researchers from the different projects presented their findings together. In the first, Teresa Ferreira (MARS), Ralf Ludwig (GLOBAQUA) and Tobias Schulze (SOLUTIONS) presented findings of analyses on the impacts of multiple stressors on river basins across Europe. Their work was based on the establishment of links from pressures/states to indicators of ecosystem services, which can help better identify the impact of multiple stressors on aquatic ecosystems. The findings of the MARS basin studies will be published in the coming months.

In the second session, Laurence Carvalho (MARS), Vicenç Acuña (GLOBAQUA) and Paul van den Brink (SOLUTIONS) reviewed the ecological effects of multiple stressors across ecosystem types (rivers, lakes and transitional waters), and across spatial scales (laboratory, mesocosm and flume experiments; individual water bodies and river basins and Europe-wide). Their collaborations sought to outline common stressor combinations (and their effects), which could be presented in a joint water policy and management briefing in the future.

In the third session, Markus Venohr (MARS), Philippe Ker-Rault and Ralf Ludwig (GLOBAQUA) discussed the potentials and pitfalls of downscaling climate and socioeconomic scenarios of the future at the river basin scale. In MARS, the scenarios are based on a set of ‘storylines‘, which are variously refined to specific river basins through stakeholder engagement. Whilst each scenario is a broad-scale approximation, their use in modelling provides a range of possible future trajectories to inform management and policy decisions. The session will lead to a joint publication and a white paper on downscaling scenario forecasts to the river basin scale, which is most useful for management.


Delegates at the Portugal meeting. Image: Vanessa Bremerich / Markus Venohr

The fourth session involved a discussion of how to link chemical and ecological status, led by Antoni Ginebreda (GLOBAQUA) and Andreas Focks (SOLUTIONS). The ‘good status’ of European water bodies according to Water Framework Directive requirements depends on them fulfilling both good ‘ecological’ and ‘chemical’ status. However, the complex interactions between different pressures – chemical and nutrient pollution, hydrological and hydromorphological alterations, land use changes – makes untangling their joint impacts on ecosystem status challenging. This session synthesised knowledge from across projects to scope the potential of strategies including: multi-pollution characterisation and effects; ecotoxicological risk assessment; modes of action of pollutants; compound prioritisation and identification of River Basin Specific Pollutants, the use of sensitive traits as indicators of ecological quality, and the links between biological and chemical monitoring data.

In the fifth session, Lidija Globevnik and Yiannis Panagopoulos (MARS), Alberto Pistocchi (GLOBAQUA) and Jos van Gils (SOLUTIONS), discussed approaches taken in the three projects to model the interactions of multiple pressures driving the status of European water bodies. In this session, particular focus was placed on hydrological pressures and chemicals interacting with other stressors, as well as the regional variability of interactions.

The sixth session focused on the science-policy dialogues and impacts prompted by the three projects. Discussions led by Daniel Hering and Erik Jeppesen (MARS), Ebun Akinsete and Nick Voulvoulis (GLOBAQUA) and David López Herráez (SOLUTIONS) focused on the translation of the projects’ scientific results into recommendations for improving the European regulatory frameworks on freshwater, with particular emphasis on the Water Framework Directive. The discussions developed themes for a number of joint policy briefs, which will be published in the future.


Discussing the links between ecological and chemical status with Professor Antoni Ginebreda (IDAEA-CSIC, Department of Environmental Chemistry). Image: Vanessa Bremerich / Markus Venohr

Wider public, policy and academic communication of results (of which this blog is one channel) was the topic of the final session. Sebastian Birk (MARS), Damià Barceló and Gabriele Sacchettini (GLOBAQUA) led discussions of how the databases, scientific reports and papers, policy-briefs and water management tools produced by the projects might be best presented to different audiences.

The workshop was deemed a real success by all who took part, as it sparked many new discussions and opportunities for collaboration between the three projects.

Three attendee reflections can be read below:

“This was a very useful occasion to find synergies between our projects, and was especially important for our policy and dissemination activities. The workshop has offered several possibilities for the coming months, and some useful tools. MARS is a complementary project finishing reasonably soon, whilst GLOBAQUA will have a couple more years; the idea is to work together and build on the results that MARS is providing.”

Gabriele Sacchettini, GLOBAQUA

“This was a very relevant meeting because two projects – MARS and GLOBAQUA – have been funded by the same EU FP7 fund, so it’s important to come together and streamline messages that are useful for water management.”

Tom Buijse, MARS

“I came here to find synergies between the three projects, and particularly to discuss how this might be communicated in policy briefs. The workshop has been a success – a very nice location and great organisation – and very useful in terms of the timing of the three projects. MARS is finishing soon, and it’s time to catch up with the results, and the themes SOLUTIONS and GLOBAQUA can develop and continue.”

David López Herráez, SOLUTIONS

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