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.