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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.

Invasive water boatman alters the coexistence of native species in Spanish and Moroccan freshwaters

September 27, 2017
Fig. 4 collecting samples

José Antonio Carbonell collecting macroinvertebrate samples. Image: Raquel López

A guest post by Tano Gutiérrez-Cánovas and José Antonio Carbonell.


Biological invasions are one of the most important causes of biodiversity loss and ecosystem change worldwide, and can be especially damaging in aquatic habitats.

However, it is still unclear how biological invasions may interact with local abiotic stressors such as salinity and land-use intensification, which are expected to increase as global change intensifies. We know little about the response of native communities of insects to biological invasions, despite the huge contribution of insects to global animal biodiversity, especially in freshwater ecosystems.

Fig. 1 trichocorixa

The alien species Trichocorixa verticalis verticalis. Image: José Antonio Carbonell

So far, the study of the ‘invasiveness’ of alien species has been focused mainly on isolated biological characteristics (e.g. body size, trophic strategy) and the specific ecosystem impacts induced by alien species. Yet it remains unclear how the ecological and biological similarity between native and alien species may influence the success and the impact of biological invasions, especially when subject to intense environmental stressors.

In a new study recently published in the Functional Ecology, we investigated the impact of an invasive water boatman (Trichocorixa verticalis verticalis) on the coexistence patterns of three native boatman Sigara species (Sigara lateralis, Sigara scripta and Sigara selecta) along a salinity gradient.

Trichocorixa verticalis verticalis, originally distributed in North America and the Caribbean, has been recorded as an alien species in South Africa, New Caledonia, Morocco, Spain and Portugal, being the only water bug recognised as an alien species in Europe.

In our study, we characterised the habitat specialisation and functional niches of each species from physiological and biological characteristics, respectively, and their degree of overlap. The physiological characteristic studied was the salinity tolerance of the different life stages (eggs, nymphs and adults) of each species. On the other hand, the biological characteristics selected were fecundity, dispersal ability, feeding strategy, life cycle and size.

Fig. 2 Veta la Palma wetland (Do§ana)

One of the surveyed wetlands at the Doñana National Park in Spain. Image: José Antonio Carbonell

After characterising the habitat specialisation and functional niches of the boatman species, we used field data (salinity and species presence) to compare their coexistence patterns of native and invasive species in invaded (south-western Iberia and northern Morocco) and non-invaded (south-eastern Iberia) freshwater ecosystems.

Finally, we tested if habitat filtering (where stress gradients segregate species into different habitats allowing regional coexistence) or niche differentiation (different resource exploitation allows the coexistence of species) affected the species’ coexistence.

Fig. 3 Sigaras

The three native boatman species: A) Sigara lateralis, B) Sigara scripta, C) Sigara selecta. Image: José Antonio Carbonell

Our results showed that the presence of the invasive insect modifies the distribution and coexistence patterns of native boatmen. We found that in non-invaded areas habitat filtering drives habitat segregation of the native species along the salinity gradient, with a lower contribution of niche differentiation.

On the other hand, in invaded areas niche differentiation seems to be the main mechanism preventing competition among the invasive and native species, enabling coexistence and resource partitioning along the salinity gradient.

The present work makes a novel contribution to the study of the impacts of invasive species at the community level through the integration of habitat specialisation and functional niche approaches with field occurrence data. We showed how the presence of the invasive species T. v. verticalis can modify the distribution and co-occurrence patterns of native Sigara species along the salinity gradient, as well as the main assembly rules that shape the assemblages in non-invaded and invaded areas.

Our approach may prove useful in helping scientists anticipate the consequences of ecologically novel invaders for native communities at structural and functional levels in a global change context.

Carbonell, J. A., Velasco, J., Millán, A., Green, A. J., Coccia, C., Guareschi, S. and Gutiérrez-Cánovas, C. (2017), Biological invasion modifies the co-occurrence patterns of insects along a stress gradient. Funct Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2435.12884

The restoration of large woody debris rapidly increases degraded river biodiversity

September 22, 2017

The River Wensum in Norfolk, England – one of the rivers used to observe the effects of large woody debris restoration in this study. Image: Colinsd40 | Flickr Creative Commons

Large woody debris‘ – the trees, logs and sticks which fall into rivers and streams from woodland – can significantly shape the flow and shape of their channels, and the biodiversity habitat they provide.

Submerged logs and branches can create pools of deeper slower water which provides habitat and nursery areas for aquatic life, and can help reduce bank scouring and erosion. During floods, woody debris can bunch together to form temporary obstructions which help slow water flows downstream.

Whilst a natural part of the ecosystem, large woody debris is often missing from rivers and streams in Europe. Larger rivers are often cleared of woody debris to allow for boat navigation, and the clearance of riparian woodland along many rivers and streams significantly reduces the amount of woody material which can reach their channels.

The reintroduction of large woody debris is a common tool for river restoration schemes which aim to encourage biodiversity and natural flood protection. However, environmental managers have, as yet, been hindered by a lack of scientific evidence on the ecological effects of adding trees and logs to river and stream ecosystems.

A new study by Murray Thompson from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and colleagues provides valuable new insights to this knowledge gap. Writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology, Thompson and colleagues report on how the presence or absence of large woody debris influences aquatic species and food webs along five rivers in England.

The research team sampled at sites along five lowland rivers in south-east England – the Bure, Loddon, Lyde, Test and Wensum. Three stretches were sampled on each river: a ‘restored’ stretch where a large willow or alder tree was felled and tethered to the river bed; a ‘control’ stretch which resembled the ‘restored’ stretch before tree-felling; and a ‘target’ stretch which contained a substantial tree which had fallen three to five years earlier.

Using a ‘multiple before-after control-impact’ study design, the team carried out biological, physical and chemical surveys of the rivers in the months before and after the addition of large woody debris to the ‘restored’ stretches, which took place in autumn 2010.


Large woody debris on the Lippe River in Germany, where restoration management has doubled fish populations in under 20 years. Image: Benjamin Kupilas | REFORM

The research team found that populations of aquatic invertebrates and brown trout were higher in the restored and target stretches than in the control stretches. In other words, the presence of large woody debris caused rapid increases in invertebrate and brown trout abundance.

Brown trout abundance increased, but population biomass did not. Increased numbers of juvenile trout were found in both the restored and target stretches, suggesting that areas with large woody debris were used as refugia or nursery habitats.

Analysis of food webs in the five rivers suggested that biomass was increasingly distributed to higher trophic levels from so-called ‘basal resources’ – the primary producers (such as algae) and detritus (such as leaf litter) on the stream bed – to invertebrates and fish in the restored stretches.

The researchers suggest that this indicates that the restored stretch ecosystems were in transition, moving from control to target conditions, as biomass was redistributed across the food web.

Lead author Murray Thompson said, “Restoration of woody debris has been used to enhance in-river habitat throughout the world for over a century in tens of thousands of projects. Woody debris is increasingly used to reinstate natural processes, restore biodiversity and thus recover degraded river ecosystems. Yet, there is a striking lack of causal evidence to support this approach.

In the first experiment of its kind conducted across multiple rivers, we set out to test if, by felling trees in-river, biodiversity and food web metrics were restored relative to control (i.e. unrestored) and ‘target’ conditions where naturally fallen trees were already in place. We were able to demonstrate causal links between habitat restoration, biodiversity restoration and food-web responses.

For instance, elevated species richness in restored areas relative to controls was primarily driven by the repopulation of rare invertebrate taxa which also had many potential predators. We hope complementary approaches will be adopted in future studies, conducted across a range of restoration projects and river systems with extended temporal monitoring to better direct conservation efforts towards the most effective solutions”

The new study provides significant new evidence demonstrating that additions of large woody debris can help to restore human-impacted river ecosystems, by increasing invertebrate and fish populations and distributing food web biomass.

Thompson and colleagues suggest that the increases in biodiversity observed in the restored and target river stretches could mean that the addition of large woody debris to rivers may increase their ecological resilience to environmental stressors such as pollution and climate change in the future.

Thompson, M. S. A., Brooks, S. J., Sayer, C. D., Woodward, G., Axmacher, J. C., Perkins, D. and Gray, C., (2017) Large woody debris ‘rewilding’ rapidly restores biodiversity in riverine food webs. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.13013

eConference on The Future of Water Management in Europe

September 11, 2017
2012_11_27_Loch Leven_AirLandWater1

Loch Leven in Scotland, where water quality has significantly improved in the last 25 years following effective water management. Image: Laurence Carvalho

Between 19th and 21st September the MARS project will host an online eConference on The Future of Water Management in Europe.

The eConference aims to gather constructive and practical suggestions from the scientific community to help improve the monitoring and management of aquatic ecosystems across Europe.

Speakers from across Europe will lead presentations and discussions on key issues surrounding aquatic science, policy and conservation. These include Dr Lidija Globevnik from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, talking about the stressors impacting freshwaters in Europe, and Dr Victor Beumer from Deltares, Netherlands, who will present on the implementation of nature-based solutions to supply multiple benefits in water management.

More than 200 delegates are expected to take part in online discussions at the eConference, the outcomes of which are intended to inform the effective implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), which is scheduled for review in 2019-20.

Leven_sampling_20170815 (2)

Ecological sampling on Loch Leven. Image: Laurence Carvalho

Professor Laurence Carvalho, the eConference organiser, and a freshwater ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) said, “The aim of this eConference is to bring together leading experts in river basin management concerned with constructive and practical ideas on how we can more effectively implement the Water Framework Directive, due for review in 2019-20.

“It is over 15 years since the WFD was formerly adopted and in that time Europe has changed, with new pressures being recognised. This includes impacts linked to climate change – and associated flood and drought risks – as well as the rise of invasive species and a broad range of emerging pollutants. At the same time new perspectives on environmental management have developed, including payment for ecosystem services, nature-based solutions and circular economies.

“Given these changes in pressures and policy approaches, this eConference aims to gather scientific opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of current WFD implementation, innovation in monitoring and management and best practice in policy implementation.”

The eConference presentations are being recorded and will be available on the conference website for a year afterwards. A synthesis of the eConference will also be written up as a science-policy opinion article.


Online registration for The Future of Water Management eConference is free.

Attendees will be able to pose questions to presenters, and take part in discussions. Afterwards, they will asked to complete a survey to give their views on future options for water management in Europe, which will be used to help shape policy recommendations from the eConference.


eConference programme

All times are Central European Time (CET)

Tuesday 19th September: Monitoring and Assessment Systems – The Good, the Bad and the Innovative

10:45 – 11:00 Welcome to eConference & day from Chair
Anne Lyche Solheim (NIVA, Norway)

11:00 – 11:30 Strengths and weaknesses of current assessment systems
Martyn Kelly (Bowburn Consultancy, UK)

11:30 – 12:00 Innovation in Monitoring – Satellites, citizens and sequences
Laurence Carvalho (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK)

12:00 – 12:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Christine Argillier (Irstea, France)

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 14:30 Tracking progress in a one-out-all-out world
Daniel Hering (University Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

14:30 – 15:00 A new biomonitoring approach to optimize mitigation and recovery
Annette Baattrup-Pedersen (Aarhus University, Denmark)

15:00 – 15:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Peter Pollard (SEPA, UK)

Wednesday 20th September: Programmes of Measures – How do we Best Manage Multiple Stressors?

10:45 – 11:00 Welcome to day from Chair
Ursula Schmedtje (Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Germany)

11:00 – 11:30 Stressor situation in Europe
Lidija Globevnik (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

11:30 – 12:00 How do we diagnose the cause of degradation under multiple stressors?
Christian Feld (University Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

12:00 – 12:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Dr Jeremy (Jay) Piggott (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 14:30 How multiple stressors are managed under water scarcity? The case of the Ebro River
Sergi Sabater (University of Girona and ICRA, Spain)

14:30 – 15:00 Implementation of Nature-based Solutions to supply multiple benefits
Victor Beumer (Deltares, Netherlands)

15:00 – 15:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Teresa Ferreira (Univ. of Lisbon, Portugal)

Thursday 21st September: The Policy Mix – Can we get Better Integration?

10:45 – 11:00 Welcome to day from Chair
Ana Cristina Cardoso (European Commission Joint Research Centre)

11:00 – 11:30 Integrating ecosystem service concepts into River Basin Management
Bruna Grizzetti (European Commission Joint Research Centre)

11:30 – 12:00 Synergies and conflicts between policies – how do we join up?
Josselin Rouillard (Ecologic, Germany)

12:00 – 12:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Angel Borja (AZTI, Spain)

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 14:30 Joining up water & agricultural policy
Sindre Langaas (NIVA, Norway)

14:30 – 15:00 Legal Issues for Policy Integration
Sarah Hendry (University of Dundee, UK)

15:00 – 15:30 Panel Q&A with chair, speakers & guest panelist
Guest panelist: Kirsty Blackstock, James Hutton Institute, UK

15:30 – 15:45 Closing remarks to eConference
Sebastian Birk (University Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

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