You are here:Home//Results//Deliverables

Deliverables

WISER half-time report

The outcome of the first 18-month period of the project has been summarised in the first periodic report to the European Commission. The scientific extract is available as 'WISER half-time public report'.

deliverable preview
arrow download Download WISER half-time public report (4 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D2.1-1:
Overview of available datasets and metadata

The WISER metadatabase provides information on the content, availability and accessibility of databases from previous EU projects and monitoring activities, as well as new data from the WISER field exercises. The information was provided by the data owners through an online questionnaire and further treated within workpackage 2.1.

Online query metadatabase

Deliverable D2.2-1:
Database on assessment methods for lakes, rivers, coastal and transitional waters in Europe

EU Member States are monitoring the ecological status of their surface waters by the use of biological a ssessment methods. These methods address various biological groups (i.e. Biological Quality Elements) such as phytoplankton, benthic flora, benthic invertebrates and fish fauna. Most Member States have developed their own assessment methods, thus many different methods currently exist to monitor the ecological status.

To provide an overview of the different methods, the WISER project has collected detailed information by means of a questionnaire-based survey. Data of more than 200 national methods were received and have been stored in the WISER methods database. All information will be made publicly available via the project's website. This de liverable contains the detailed descriptions of more than 230 national assessment methods.

Wiser methods database

deliverable preview
arrow download Download D2.2-1 (5 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D2.2-2:
Guidelines for indicator development
(Background for common metrics)

Update 09 April 2010:
We are sorry, but a little error ocured in the first version of this deliverable. This has been corrected.

This guidance provides "cook books" for the development of common metrics and assessment systems to be applied for different Biological Quality Elements and water types. It is for internal use within the WISER project and might in a later stage be extended by best practise examples and be made available to the Geographical Intercalibration Groups.

The first purpose of the guidance is to develop common metrics, i.e. common yardsticks ("international currencies") against which national assessment systems can be compared. The common metrics which will be developed by the WISER project will support the intercalibration process for the Water Framework Directive.

Due to the strict time schedule of the intercalibration exercise the common metrics must be based on preliminary data evaluation; this guidance outlines the procedure to ensure that common metrics will be developed in a comparable way for different organism groups (Biological Quality Elements) and water types.

Second, the guidance outlines a methodology for developing assessment systems. This methodology has several commonalities with the common metric development, but is based on a more sophisticated data evaluation.

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for lakes and for transitional/coastal waters

deliverable preview  deliverable annex
arrow download Download D2.2-2 (200 kb, pdf)

arrow download Download annex to D2.2-2 (220 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D2.2-3:
Manuscript comparing assessment approaches across ecosystem types

Europe has decided to manage its surface waters with regard to the ecological status they achieve. Here we present an overview of 297 assessment methods for European aquatic ecosystems focussing on the implementation of scientific concepts and standards of aquatic bioassessment. Twenty-eight countries reported mostly on methods applied to rivers (30 %), followed by coastal waters (26 %), lakes (25 %) and transitional waters (19 %). More than half of the methods assessed macroscopic plants or benthic invertebrates. Other methods assessed phytoplankton, fishes and phytobenthos. Method availability was highest in countries of Central and Western Europe. Among different sampling practices two main strategies were discernable: Small-scale sampling of the taxonomically diverse groups of benthic invertebrates and phytobenthos that require elaborate processing, and large-scale sampling of vast, species-poor plant stands or the mobile fish fauna.

About three-quarters of methods identified organisms to species-level while especially phytoplankton-based methods referred to class- or phylum-level, or to no taxonomic information. Out of the nine metric types distinguished, river methods featured more sensitivity and trait metrics while for the other water categories abundance metrics prevailed. Fish-based methods showed the highest number of metrics used per method. Most methods focussed on the detection of eutrophication and organic pollution. Habitat loss was mainly assessed by methods applied to rivers and transitional waters. The pressure-impact relationship of about one-third of methods was not tested empirically with methods for transitional waters being the least validated. Status boundaries were mostly defined using statistical, non-ecological approaches. The existing method diversity clearly obstructs comparable status classification among European surface waters . We advocate better reflection of the necessary sampling effort and precision, full validations of pressure-impact relationships and an implementation of more ecological components into classification. The success of European aquatic bioassessment will significantly depend on necessary improvements resolving the issues highlighted in this review.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: Download will be available soon.

Deliverable D2.2-4:
Report for ECOSTAT: Intercalibration - review of methods and recommendations for current and planned intercalibration work

A key element in harmonising quality classification within and between Europe's river basins is the intercalibration exercise stipulated by the Water Framework Directive (WFD). In this exercise countries compare their classification of ecological status for similar ecosystem types across large geographical areas. The aim of intercalibration is to ensure a consistent level of ambition in the protection and restoration of surface water bodies among member states of the European Union. In simple terms, the intercalibration exercise ensures that, for instance, an Irish water body in good status according to the Irish assessment method would also be classified in good status by the Polish or German methods if that water body was located in Poland or Germany, respectively.

In this deliverable we outline the key principles of the intercalibration methodology, overview the achievements of intercalibration after seven years of endeavour, and discuss benefits and drawbacks of Europe's quest for common management objectives for its aquatic ecosystems. Setting a consistent level of ambition among ecological status classifications required an analytical approach that considered (i) basic discrepancies between the Biological Quality Elements (BQE), (ii) systematic differences between the national assessment methods, and (iii) biogeographical variation across Europe. These issues were addressed Europe-wide by collating suitable datasets, applying appropriate intercalibration options and standardising the national classifications before testing their comparability. Key to a consistent process were the common criteria of comparability that applied to each individual intercalibration exercise, be it phytoplankton classification in Mediterranean lagoons or invertebrate assessment in Alpine torrents.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: This deliverable is not available for download.

Deliverable D3.1-1 (draft):
Report on lake phytoplankton composition metrics, including a common metric approach for use in intercalibration by all GIGs
(Background for common metrics)

This is a draft version of the deliverable.

Annex V of the WFD requires that ecological status of phytoplankton in lakes should be assessed using biomass, composition and bloom metrics. In many countries of Europe, the national assessment systems for phytoplankton in lakes, however, still lack metrics for phytoplankton composition (and blooms) (Poikane 2009, Birk et al. 2010). Thus, to facilitate efficient development of WFD-compliant national assessment systems across Europe, there is an urgent need for metrics for phytoplankton composition, including common metrics that can be used as a tool for intercalibration of existing national metrics (IC guidance 2010). The new metrics should be based on Guidelines for Indicator Development given by WISER D.2.2.2 (Hering et al. 2010).

The objective of this report is to present new candidate metrics for phytoplankton composition and suggest common metrics for use in intercalibration of phytoplankton phase 2 in close dialogue with Geographical Intercalibration Groups (GIGs).

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for lakes

deliverable preview  deliverable annex
arrow download Download D3.1-1 draft (2.4 mb, pdf)

arrow download Download annex to D3.1-1 draft (500 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.1-2:
Report on phytoplankton bloom metrics
(Background for common metrics)

The enrichment of ecosystems with plant nutrients, or eutrophication, is one of the most widespread pressures affecting European freshwaters. There are numerous socio-economic problems associated with eutrophication, particularly with increasing frequency and intensity of harmful algal blooms (HABs). These include detrimental effects on drinking water quality, filtration costs for water supply, access for water-based activities, and conservation status (particularly sensitive fish species, such as salmonids and coregonids). Phytoplankton blooms, are a widespread feature of freshwater lakes across lowland Europe. There is strong evidence that the development of phytoplankton blooms has been increasing in both frequency and intensity in recent decades (Smith 2003). This is widely believed to be due to nutrient enrichment, but also in response to warmer and drier summer conditions (Paerl & Husiman 2009, Weyhenmeyer et al. 2002).In this report we examine two candidate metrics for phytoplankton blooms for use as common metrics in Europe in the WFD Intercalibration (IC) process.

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for lakes

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.1-2 (1.5 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.1-3:
Report on uncertainty in phytoplankton metrics
(Background for common metrics)

Lake phytoplankton metrics proposed by the EC WISER Project for ecological quality assessment of European lakes are shown to be robust metrics. Latest results from the WISER pan-European field campaign reveal that variability in metric scores is largely due to variability between lakes and is significantly related to differences in eutrophication pressure (total phosphorus concentrations). Differences in locations around a lake, or sampling and analytical variability, only accounted for a small proportion of the variability in metric scores.

These results are especially true for four candidate phytoplankton metrics being considered for Intercalibration: chlorophyll, PTI, MFGI and cyanobacteria abundance, for which >85% of the variability in metric scores was attributed between lakes and total phosphorus concentration was the best single predictor of variation in these metrics. Although, much among-lake metric variation still remained unexplained by the available environmental data, we conclude that these four proposed metrics are sufficiently robust metrics for ecological status assessment and are suitable for adoption in the Intercalibration process.

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for lakes

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.1-3 (1 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.1-3b:
WISER temporal uncertainty analysis for phytoplankton
(Background for common metrics)

The broad objective of this analysis has been to quantify and compare the degree of temporal (inter-annual and monthly) and spatial (among countries and waterbodies) variation in lake phytoplankton metrics. The three focal metrics have been chlorophyll a concentration, PTI and total cyanobacterial biovolume. Though some previous studies (e.g. SNIFFER work) have aimed to quantify temporal variation in phytoplankton at the scale of a single lake system, we have attempted the complementary approach of conducting a large-scale (pan- European) analysis that will give a more integrated picture of the degree of temporal uncertainty in phytoplankton metrics.

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for lakes

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.1-3b (500 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.1-4:
Guidance document on sampling, analysis and counting standards for phytoplankton in lakes

It is very unfortunate that no European guidance on sampling of phytoplankton in lakes was agreed before the phytoplankton assessment methods for the EU-WFD were developed and intercalibrated by Member States. In 2008 an initiative by the European Commission (Mandate M424) for two draft CEN standards on sampling in freshwaters and on calculation of phytoplankton biovolume was unfortunately delayed by administrative difficulties. Recently a grant agreement was signed between the Commission and DIN (German Institute for Standardization) in January 2012 to develop these standards. We believe this WISER guidance document can usefully contribute to these up-coming standards.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.1-4 (1.2 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.1-5:
Integrated assessment of lake phytoplankton

Phytoplankton constitute a diverse array of algae that live suspended in the water column of lakes and reservoirs. They are short-lived organisms (generation times of days to weeks) and they derive their nutrients exclusively from the water column. These features make this biological quality element the most direct and earliest indicator of the impacts of changing nutrient conditions on lake ecosystems. It also makes them particularly suitable for measuring the success of restoration measures following reductions in nutrient loads. This report summarises the work on lake phytoplankton in the EC WISER Project. It summarises a number of measures, or metrics, developed in WISER for using phytoplankton to assess the ecological health of European lakes, as required for the Water Framework Directive It also reviews metrics developed by Member States.

It examines the strength of these metrics, specifically in relation to representing the impacts of eutrophication pressure. The report also examines how these measures vary naturally at different locations within a lake, as well as between lakes, and how much variability is associated with different replicate samples, different months within a year and between years. On the basis of all this analysis, three of the best metrics (chlorophyll, PTI and cyanobacterial biovolume) are recommended for use in the WFD Intercalibration process, or for adoption as national metrics by member states. The final discussion examines whether these metrics effectively represent the impact of eutrophication on the structure and functioning of lake ecosystems.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: Download will be available as soon as the accompanying paper is published.

Deliverable D3.1-6:
Manuscripts on composition & bloom metrics, uncertainty and integration

Phytoplankton constitute a diverse array of algae that live suspended in the water column of lakes and reservoirs. They are short-lived organisms (generation times of days to weeks) and they derive their nutrients exclusively from the water column. These features make this biological quality element the most direct and earliest indicator of the impacts of changing nutrient conditions on lake ecosystems. It also makes them particularly suitable for measuring the success of restoration measures following reductions in nutrient loads. This report summarises the manuscripts that have been planned to disseminate the results from the WISER Lake Phytoplankton Work Package (WP3.1).

Much of the work for these manuscripts was developed in close collaboration with national phytoplankton experts from across Europe, who have been involved in a cross-comparison (Intercalibration) of classification schemes for the Water Framework Directive. These regional groups of experts are known as Geographical Intercalibration Groups (GIGs). A joint WISER/GIG Lake Phytoplankton Workshop was held in Italy in October 2011 to elaborate the main publications from this joint work. Full titles, proposed authorships and brief paper aims are described in this report.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: This deliverable is not available for download.

Deliverable D3.2-1:
Overview and comparison of macrophyte survey methods used in European countries and a proposal of harmonized common sampling protocol to be used for WISER uncertainty exercise including a relevant common species list
(Background for common metrics)

Aquatic macrophyte vegetation has often been neglected in lake monitoring programmes in Europe until recently. Several aspects are important to consider when selecting the appropriate method for the investigation of aquatic plants. Amongst other aspects, it is necessary to develop and apply methods that allow comprehensive, quick and cost-effective surveys. Furthermore, the resulting data should provide an accuracy which enables the reliable and unequivocal assessment of the ecological status of a lake water body.

Deliverable D3.2-1 includes an overview of the macrophyte field survey methods which have been developed and applied in Europe to date, together with an estimation of their practical aspects in the light of biological monitoring of lakes consistent with the Water Framework Directive. In addition, a detailed review of the different methods used for taxonomic composition surveys and measurements of aquatic macrophyte abundance is given.

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for lakes

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.2-1 (400 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.2-2:
Report on uncertainty in macrophyte metrics
(Background for common metrics)

For macrophyte status assessment the sampling methodology is an important source of uncertainty. Quantitative estimates of uncertainty related to bioassessment methods are required to reach accurate waterbody ecological classification decisions. Standardised, objective, and repeatable monitoring methods are essential in monitoring programs with aims to detect anthropogenic impact on lake ecosystems. Results of lake macrophyte surveys are extremely sensitive to errors due to both vertical and horizontal variability of macrophyte communities (Jensen 1977, Janauer, 2002). In addition to spatial variability there are errors related to recognition and identification of individual species and also especially to coverage estimations of vegetation.

This study aims to assess the relative importance of different sources of (spatial) variation in the sampling data on uncertainty in the available metrics. Previous work on uncertainty in macrophyte status assessment methods and metrics (especially from the STAR project on running waters) showed that inter-surveyor differences were low and the influences of temporal variation (years and seasons) and shading slightly stronger (Clarke and Hering, 2006). The strongest variation was due to habitat modifications, but several metrics were of sufficient precision in terms of sampling uncertainty to be useful for estimating the ecological status of rivers (Staniszewski et al., 2006). However, the probability of misclassification of a site was found to be largely associated with classification methodology (Szoszkiewicz et al., 2007, 2009).

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for lakes

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.2-2 (900 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.2-3:
Report on the most suitable lake macrophyte based assessment methods for impacts of eutrophication and water level fluctuations
(Background for common metrics)

The Annex V of the Water Framework Directive requires that assessment of the ecological status of lakes based on aquatic vegetation should include taxonomic composition and abundance of macrophytes. The main objectives of our study presented in the report were to validate and supplement macrophyte metrics based on species composition, abundance and community structure for assessment of impacts of eutrophication, and to determine and evaluate their sensitivity and usefulness as indicators. Our aim was also to develop relevant metrics to assess response of lake macrophytes to water level fluctuations. Moreover, the use of palaeoecological approaches (plant macrofossil records) to define reference conditions and to assess ecological status for selected lake types was addressed.

As most of the Member States have developed and intercalibrated their assessment systems or are in the process of intercalibration, suggestions about the most suitable assessment systems could be valuable for those MS who have not developed their assessment systems yet, but also for those who would like to improve them. The developed common metrics for eutrophication and hydromorphological pressures give an opportunity to evaluate the current assessment systems in the course of intercalibration (metrics included, assessment concept etc.).

When searching the best responding macrophyte metrics for eutrophication and hydromorphological alterations the procedure recommended by Hering et al. 2010 in Guideline for indicator development (Deliverable 2.2-2) was applied. The issue of uncertainty in macrophyte metrics was also addressed and the results are included in complementary report by Penning et al. 2011 (Deliverable 3.2-2; in prep.).

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for lakes

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.2-3 (3.3 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.2-4:
Manuscripts on macrophyte responses to eutrophication and hydromorpho- logical alterations

WISER consortium developed several indices and found several relationship usable in ecological assessment according to European water framework directive. WISER consortium has compiled a macrophyte database consisting over 2000 lake-years from 16 countries (Kolada et al. 2011). To demonstrate a common metric which both responds sufficiently to eutrophication, and is applicable in different countries, to be used for intercalibration of existing national macrophyte methods, three groups of metrics on taxonomic composition were tested:

  • indices based on trophic scores,
  • indices based on species richness,
  • indices based on proportion of functional groups.
For testing the response of macrophyte metrics in a pressure gradient, the mean seasonal concentration of total phosphorus (TP) was used as a pressure proxy.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: This deliverable is not available for download.

Deliverable D3.3-1:Overview of European lake types, their invertebrate fauna, persistence of reference conditions, and major pressures

This deliverable provides an overview of European lake types, their reference conditions, major pressures acting on them, as well as on existing assessment systems based on benthic invertebrates.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: This deliverable will not be published.

Deliverable D3.3-2:
The importance of invertebrate spatial and temporal variation for ecological status classification for European lakes

European lakes are affected by many human induced disturbances. In principle, ecological theories predict that the structure and functioning of benthic invertebrate assemblage, one of the Biological Quality Elements following the Water Framework Directive (WFD) terminology, change according to the level of disturbances, making this biological element suitable to assess the status and manage lake ecosystems. In practice, to set up assessment systems based on invertebrates, we need to distiguish community changes that are related to human pressures from those that are inherent natural variability. This task is complicated by the fact that invertebrate communities hinhabiting the littoral and the profundal zones of lakes are costrained by different factors and respond unevenly to distinct human disturbances. For example it is not clear yet how the invertebrates assemblages respond to watershed and shoreline alterations, the relative importance of spatial and temporal factors on assemblage dynamics and relative bioindicative values of taxa, the habitat constraints on species traits and other taxonomic and methodological limitations.

The current lack of knowledge on basic features of invertebrate temporal and spatial variations is limiting the fulfillment of the EU-wide intercalibration of the lake ecological quality assessment systems in Europe, and thus compromising the basis for setting the environmental objectives as required by the WFD. The aim of this deliverable is to provide a contribution towards the understanding of basic sources of spatial and temporal variation of lake invertebrate assemblages. The report is structured around selected case studies, manly involving the analysis of existing datasets collected within Wiser. The case studies come from different European lake types in the Northern, Central, Alpine and Mediterranean regions. All chapters have an obvious applied objective and our aim is to provide to those dealing with WFD implementation at various levels hopefully useful information to account for when designed monitoring programs and or invertebrate based classification systems.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.3-2 (2 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.3-3:
Development of tools for the assessment of European lakes using benthic invertebrates: preliminary analysis

In order to obtain quality assessment of lakes, benthic macroinvertebrates, as one of the Biological Quality Elements (BQEs), must be analysed in terms of taxonomic and functional composition, abundance, disturbance sensitive taxa, diversity and absence of major taxonomic groups.

This can be achieved by means of metrics and multimetric indices. A metric is a measurable part or process of a biological system shown to change in value along a gradient of anthropogenic influence, while a multimetric index is a combination of standardized single metrics. Multime- tric indices are often used in assessment systems because they synthesize information on different biological attributes into a single index value.

Here we show different approaches to the development of invertebrate based metrics suitable to indicate hydromorphological alterations in (sub-)Alpine and Central Baltic lakes. The first analysis by Pilotto et al. is focused on the sublittoral zone while the second (by Böhmer et al.) is focused on the eulittoral zone. The dataset on which this analysis is based comes from different sources and, unavoidably, has several drawbacks in terms of variance heterogeneity and statistical power.

This deliverable anticipates in a preliminary way some aspects that will further elaborated in Deliverable 3.3.4, which will be dedicated to the development of multimetric indices for hydromorphological degradation based on a more homogeneous eulittoral dataset that was collected within the Wiser WP3.3 field campaign (see D3.3.2 for details).

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.3-3 (2.7 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.3-4:
Assessment of ecological effects of hydromorphological lake shore alterations and water level fluctuations using benthic macroinvertebrates

The Directive 2000/60/EC, commonly known as the Water Framework Directive (WFD), legally requires EU member states to assess the ecological status of their surface waters. Biological assessment methods should be used based on biological quality elements (BQEs), i.e. fish, phytoplankton, macrophytes, phytobenthos and benthic invertebrates. Benthic invertebrates have been demonstrated to respond to hydromorphological alterations of lakes. However, so far no assessment methods based on this pressure-response-relationship are available at European level.

Within the EU project WISER, it was possible to obtain a methodologically homogeneous dataset on eulittoral invertebrates, this dataset was collected within the Wiser WP3.3 field campaign (see D3.3.2 for details), which allowed for the development of multimetric indices for hydromorphological degradation. Hence, this deliverable documents several approaches for the development of invertebrate based metrics suitable for indicating hydromorphological alterations in (sub-)Alpine and Central Baltic lakes. All information will be made publicly available via the project website.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.3-4 (2.4 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.4-1:
Impacts of climate warming on lake fish community structure and potential effects on ecosystem function

Fish play a key role in the trophic dynamics of lakes, not least in shallow systems. With climate warming, complex changes in fish community structure may be expected owing to the direct effects of temperature, and indirect effects of eutrophication, water level changes and salinisation on fish metabolism, biotic interactions and geographic distribution. We review published and new data supporting the hypotheses that, with a warming climate, there will be changes in: fish community structure (e.g. higher or lower richness depending on local conditions); life history traits (e.g. smaller body size, shorter life span, earlier and less synchronized reproduction); feeding mode (i.e. increased omnivory and herbivory); behaviour (i.e. stronger association with littoral areas and a greater proportion of benthivores); and winter survival.

All these changes imply higher predation on zooplankton and macroinvertebrates with increasing temperatures, suggesting that the changes in the fish communities partly resemble, and may intensify, the effects triggered by eutrophication. Modulating factors identified in cold and temperate systems, such as the presence of submerged plants and winter ice cover, seem to be weaker or non-existent in warm(ing) lakes. Consequently, lower nutrient thresholds may be needed to obtain clear-water conditions and good ecological status in the future in currently cold or temperate lakes. Although examples are still scarce and more research is needed, we foresee biomanipulation to be a less successful restoration tool in warm(er) lakes without a strong reduction of the nutrient load.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: This deliverable is not available for download.

Deliverable 3.4-2:
Changes in size structure of fish assemblages in European lakes along eutrophication and hydromorphological pressure gradients

Measurement of ecological integrity using fish fauna is widely applied in the monitoring of freshwater ecosystems, including lakes. According to the European Water Framework Directive fish fauna has to be assessed, via analyses of the composition, abundance and age structure. However, aging of fish is time-consuming and expensive, whereas analyses of the size structure, which can be used as a surrogate for the age structure, is more feasibly because size of fish caught by multi-mesh gillnets is in general recorded during field campaigns. Furthermore, analyses of the size structure of lake fish assemblages can be a promising tool to develop metrics that are comparable across large geographical scales, because differences in fish species composition which can be substantial across Europe have not to be taken into account.

In a preliminary analyses on a small geographical scale (78 lakes in northern Germany) we tested the suitability of non-taxonomic size metrics derived from fish catches by multi-mesh gillnets as a tool for elucidating systematic shifts in lake fish assemblages along gradients of environmental factors (lake size and depth, nutrient status) and lake-use intensity (influence of anthropogenic shore structures, boating, bathing). Several size metrics were correlated to gradients of nutrient concentration, lake area and depth as well as variables related to the proportion and size of predatory fishes in the lakes suggesting size metrics as a useful tool to assess the ecological status of lakes at regional scale.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.4-2 (2.5 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.4-3:
Guidelines for standardisation of hydroacoustic methods

The use of transmitted underwater sound to survey fish populations (known effectively interchangeably as hydroacoustics, echo sounding or sonar) has a long and extensive record of successful application, particularly in the marine environment where most of its major developments have historically taken place. In recent decades, technological developments, including the miniaturisation of electronic components and rapidly increasing computing power, have facilitated the production of hydroacoustic systems which can be readily deployed from small vessels on fresh waters.

The present document gives an introduction to this still developing field and provides a set of guidelines specifically for the application of hydroacoustics to the investigation of fish populations in European standing freshwater bodies. As such it will help to produce hydroacoustic surveys which are compatible with current best practice, well reported and will facilitate the future valid comparison of hydroacoustic datasets for lakes and reservoirs from across Europe. In addition to explaining the basic principles of hydroacoustics and reviewing appropriate hardware and software currently available, guidance is also given on pre-survey planning (general considerations, design of survey route, sound transmission and recording parameters), survey and data acquisition (immediate pre-survey activities, survey itself, immediate post-survey activities), post-survey data analysis (general considerations, choice of analysis method, echo counting, trace counting, echo integration, further processing of analysis results), and finally reporting and data archiving.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.4-3 (600 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.4-4:
Fish indicators for ecological status assessment of lakes affected by eutrophication and hydromorphological pressures
(Background for common metrics)

Fish play a key role in the trophic dynamics of lakes, not least in shallow systems. With climate warming, complex changes in fish community structure may be expected owing to the direct effects of temperature, and indirect effects of eutrophication, water level changes and salinisation on fish metabolism, biotic interactions and geographic distribution. We review published and new data supporting the hypotheses that, with a warming climate, there will be changes in:

  • fish community structure (e.g. higher or lower richness depending on local conditions);
  • life history traits (e.g. smaller body size, shorter life span, earlier and less synchronized reproduction);
  • feeding mode (i.e. increased omnivory and herbivory); behaviour (i.e. stronger association with littoral areas and a greater proportion of benthivores);
  • and winter survival.

All these changes imply higher predation on zooplankton and macroinvertebrates with increasing temperatures, suggesting that the changes in the fish communities partly resemble, and may intensify, the effects triggered by eutrophication. Modulating factors identified in cold and temperate systems, such as the presence of submerged plants and winter ice cover, seem to be weaker or non-existent in warm(ing) lakes. Consequently, lower nutrient thresholds may be needed to obtain clear-water conditions and good ecological status in the future in currently cold or temperate lakes. Although examples are still scarce and more research is needed, we foresee biomanipulation to be a less successful restoration tool in warm(er) lakes without a strong reduction of the nutrient load.

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for lakes and for transitional/coastal waters

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D3.4-4 (2.1 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D3.4-5:
Comparison of hydroacoustic and multi-mesh gillnet data

Representative sampling of lake fish assemblages is a challenging task in fish science and management. Information to be obtained on the fish stock largely depends on the choice of the sampling method. The use of more than one sampling technique is generally favoured to achieve a comprehensive overview on fish stocks. However, local regulations or limited resources often set strict limits to the choice of sampling gears and intensity of sampling. Thus, knowledge of the correspondence of catches between sampling gears and its relation to sampling effort is crucial.

Fish assemblages in lakes are nowadays primarily sampled by multi-mesh gillnets using standardized sampling designs and sampling effort. However, in most situations gillnets are considered to be destructive because they kill most fish entangled in the meshes. In consequence, some European countries limit the use of destructive gillnet sampling. Alternatively, non-destructive hydroacoustics, the transmission of underwater sound, is an increasingly favoured option to sample fish stocks particularly in large and deep lakes. In this study, we compared fish abundance estimates obtained from both sampling gears by analyzing gillnet catches and hydroacoustic data collected from 18 European lakes.

We found a strong significant correlation between fish catches from gillnets and fish biomass estimates obtained by vertical hydroacoustics. The strength of correlations was independent of fish-length thresholds applied, but varied across different depth strata of the lakes with the strongest correlations observed in shallow strata. No correlation was observed in deep strata.

Gillnet sampling seems not to be sufficient for obtaining reliable relative fish density estimates in very deep lakes with separate, pelagic dwelling fish assemblages. However, the results of our comparative approach support the more frequent application of vertical hydroacoustics for the quantification of fish biomass in stratified lakes. Combined fish sampling designs of hydroacoustics for the purpose of fish abundance estimates and limited gillnetting for the purpose of inventory sampling only (i.e. apportionment of species data from gillnet catches to hydroacoustic data) rather than fish abundance estimates offer a cost- effective strategy for the sampling of fish assemblages in lakes. This approach is particularly appropriate for countries where gillnetting provokes ethical problems or conflicts with interests of local recreational fisheries.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: This deliverable is not available for download.

Deliverable D4.1-1:
Report on identification of type- specific phytoplankton assemblages for three ecoregions

The European Water Framework Directive requires the Member States to assess the ecological status of the marine coastal and estuarine waters. In this assessment, several aspects of the phytoplankton communities, such as composition, abundance and biomass, must be included.

A key step in the development of indicators for the assessment of the phytoplankton quality is the establishment of the reference conditions (the conditions that would exist under no or very minor anthropogenic impact). The aim of this study is to gain a better understanding of the reference conditions for phytoplankton composition in three different ecoregions: the Baltic, the Northeast Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea ecoregion.

This technical report gives a description of the composition of the phytoplankton communities in several water bodies in Europe that are considered to be at high ecological quality status. These communities are representative of the reference conditions. In addition, data from the non-pristine Baltic Sea are evaluated to provide a characterisation of phytoplankton under good or high ecological status.

This report also provides information about different methodologies for the study of the phytoplankton communities. These methodologies involve a range of aspects: from the approach for selecting the most suitable data sets, to the laboratory techniques and the mathematical and statistical analyses employed.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.1-1 (2 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.1-2:
Assessment of pigment data potential for multi-species and assemblage indices
(Background for common metrics)

The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires the Member States to assess the ecological status of the marine coastal and estuarine waters. In this assessment, several aspects of the phytoplankton communities, such as composition, abundance and biomass, must be included.In the first round of WFD intercalibration only the sub element chlorophyll a (Chl a) of the biological quality element phytoplankton was intercalibrated. The present report provides results from analysis of phytoplankton composition described from pigment content. The phytoplankton communities analysed were sampled as part of the WISER field work during the summer of 2009.

While the total concentration of Chl a was significantly correlated with TN across the geographically different WISER sampling localities, the distribution patterns of pigment samples and communities showed the major correlation with salinity and temperature and only minor correlation with TN as a measure of eutrophication. The variation in phytoplankton composition at a Danish station included in the analyses showed inter-annual variations over a three year sampling period in the same range as variations found among the WISER stations. The concentration of individual pigments increased with increasing TN whereas no clear relationships were found for relative contributions of the different phytoplankton groups.

A prerequisite for the use of pigment based community composition as a WFD indicator is the establishment of reference conditions. The major influence from salinity and temperature on the distribution pattern of the WISER samples hindered the use of any of these sampling stations as reference sites for a pigment based phytoplankton indicator. Different and commonly unknown accumulation and preservation rates of the different pigments in sediments reduce the possibility of describing quantitative reference phytoplankton communities from the fossil record. The most specific pigments may have a potential as indicators. However, this requires that the phytoplankton group they characterise is also a useful indicator. At present very few such single species/group indicators have been identified.

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for transitional/coastal waters

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.1-2 (600 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.1-3:
Sources of Uncertainty in Assessment of Phytoplankton Communities

Characterisation of phytoplankton communities is important for classification of the ecological status of marine waters. In order to design a monitoring program assessing the community with sufficient precision, it is important to know what degree of variation in the measurements occur at each level (water-body, station and sample), so the resources can be spent in a way that maximise the precision of the measured parameters. In the present study seven European water-bodies were sampled in order to assess the variation in pigment concentrations and population densities attributed to water-body, station and sample levels. It was found that the main proportion of the variation between pigment measurements is explained by the variation between stations (10-68% of variation) followed by the variation between water-bodies (6- 52% of variation).

For measurements of population density recorded as number of cells l-1 the main proportion of the variation between densities of cells recorded was explained by the variation between the taxonomists counting the samples (35%), and the main proportion of the variation between numbers of taxa recorded was found to be explained by the variation between water-bodies (83%). In order to increase the precision of estimates of pigment concentrations for a specific water-body an increase in the number of stations is therefore recommended, while for assessing phytoplankton densities directly by cell counts, continuous training and inter- calibration of the staff would be the single most important measure.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: This deliverable is not available for download.

Deliverable D4.1-4:
Manuscript on the review of multi- species indicators synthesised with WP results

The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires the Member States to assess the ecological status of the marine coastal and estuarine waters. In this assessment, several aspects of the phytoplankton communities, such as composition, abundance and biomass, must be included.

Multimetric indicators consider multiple impacts and combine individual metrics into a unitless measure to assess the overall conditions of the environment. Multimetric indicators should reduce uncertainty and increase robustness of assessment in comparison of single indicators.

In this paper, we give an overview of existing multi-species phytoplankton indicators in coastal and transitional waters, and include the phytoplankton metrics and the multimetric index (ISS- phyto) developed in coastal and transitional waters within WISER project.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.1-4 (600 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.2-1:
Review report/manuscript on seagrass indicator potential

The increasing human pressure on the coastal zone is rapidly deteriorating coastal environmental quality, particularly since year 1950. Policies aiming at improving coastal water and ecosystem quality are a priority in European countries (Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Habitats Directive) as well as in other countries and regions in the Globe (e.g. USA, Clean Water Act). Well developed seagrass beds provide many important services to coastal ecosystems, such as increased biodiversity and coastal protection, which disappear when seagrass distribution and abundance decline in response to human pressure. Seagrasses therefore have a large potential as indicators of ecological quality.

This deliverable represents a compilation of seagrass indicators included in European monitoring programs. The compilation shows that a strikingly diverse range of seagrass metrics is in use, i.e. 35 specific seagrass metrics and 20 metrics on associated vegetation, fauna and macroalgae are making part of the seagrass indicators. The widespread use of seagrass indicators in European monitoring programs reflects the value of these marine benthic vegetation components as canaries of marine ecologic status.

The metrics composing the compiled seagrass indicators describe various aspects of the seagrass community and associated flora and fauna and can, on this basis, be categorised in seven different categories: 'distribution', 'abundance', 'shoot characteristics', 'processes', 'chemical constituents', 'associated flora and fauna' and 'macroalgae', of which the first five relate directly to the seagrasses.

The indicators and their metrics can typically not be extracted from the same type of raw data, and the different categories of metrics may also show different sensitivities and time scales of response to pressures. The metrics are, therefore, not directly comparable but may supplement each other in the evaluation ecological status.

The large diversity of metrics highlights a need to further explore the sensitivity and time scales of responses of metrics and indicators to pressures in order to assist managers selecting the most appropriate tools for a given purpose and type of ecosystem.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.2-1 (1.2 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.2-2:
Responses of macroalgae and seagrass indicators to drivers of deterioration

The increasing human pressure on the coastal zone is rapidly deteriorating coastal environmental quality, particularly since year 1950. Policies aiming at improving coastal water and ecosystem quality are a priority in European countries (Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Habitats Directive) as well as in other countries and regions in the Globe (e.g., USA, Clean Water Act). Well-developed seagrass and macroalgal beds provide many important services to coastal ecosystems, such as increased biodiversity and coastal protection, which disappear when seagrass and macroalgal distribution and abundance decline in response to human pressure. This study provides examples of how seagrass and macroalgal indicators respond to anthropogenic pressure in the European coastal zone.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: This deliverable is not available for download.

Deliverable D4.2-3:
Report/manuscript on benthic macroflora indicators for coastal waters, including classification boundaries, definition of reference conditions and uncertainty

Several indices using macrophytes to assess the ecological status of coastal waters were developed prior the start of WISER project, but some have been developed during the project. It is crutial to evaluate the robustness and reliability of the different indices developed. This is to be done mainly through quantification of pressure-indicator responses (see Deliverable 4.2-2) and uncertainty analysis, a powerful tool that allows the identification of the factors contributing to the potential misclassification of the ecological status class of water bodies.

The objectives of this deliverable are:

  • to summarize the characteristics of the macroflora classification methods studied in WISER;
  • to describe the new macroflora classification methods developed within WISER Project;
  • to determine which sources of variability (factors) associated with the sampling design different coastal WFD monitoring programmes using classification methods based on macrophytes, most greatly influence the classifications of water bodies.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: Download will be available as soon as the accompanying paper is published.

Deliverable D4.2-4:
Report/manuscript on benthic macroflora indicators for transitional waters, including classification boundaries, definition of reference conditions and uncertainty

This document reports the work conducted in the production of new (or development of already existent) assessment indices in Work Package 4.2 - seagrass and macroalgae in transitional waters (i.e. estuarine and lagoon). The work was conducted within the project WISER under the sponsorship of the European Commission. It presents most of the technical details considered important for the analyses underlying each assessment tool, and provides the necessary information to understand the rationale, approach and underlying assumptions necessary to discuss the results in the scope of the European Water Framework Directive.

The focus is therefore to discuss either the developed assessment indices and to produce some recommendations to improve macroalgae/angiosperms-based ecological assessments in transitional waters, mainly estuaries and lagoons. This is perfectly in line with some of the WISER aims, in which the project is expected to assist the WFD implementation. The studied sites represent real environmental concerns and are examples of different environmental situations. These sites were appropriate to test the macroalgae/angiosperms tools developed in WISER and to check their compliance with WFD normative requirements. Furthermore, results of the work package have been shared with relevant Geographical Intercalibration Groups (GIGs) as aimed to support WFD implementation in Europe.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.2-4 (4.4 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.3-1:
Manuscript on the responses of existing indicators to different pressures
(Background for common metrics)

The structure of the benthic macroinvertebrate fauna is one of the quality elements used in the Water Framework Directive (WFD) to assess ecological quality status in Europe. Several different indices have been proposed and may be used to classify benthic status.

In this Deliverable we compared single metrics and multimetric methods to assess coastal and transitional benthic status along human pressure gradients in five distinct environments across Europe: Varna bay (Bulgaria), Lesina lagoon (Italy), Mondego estuary (Portugal), Basque coast (Spain) and Oslofjord (Norway). Hence, 13 single metrics and 8 of the most common indices used within the WFD for benthic assessment were selected. As single metrics, abundance, species richness (as number of taxa), Shannon's diversity, AMBI (AZTI's Marine Biotic Index), five ecological groups (from sensitive to opportunistic species), Margalef index, SN, ES100, and ES50, were calculated. As multimetric or multivariate methods ISS (Index of Size Spectra), BAT (Benthic Assessment Tool), NQI (Norwegian Quality Index), M-AMBI (multivariate AMBI), BQI (Biological Quality Index), BEQI (Benthic Ecosystem Quality Index), BITS (Benthic Index based on Taxonomic Sufficiency), and IQI (Infaunal Quality Index) were calculated. Within each system, sampling sites were ordered in an increasing pressure gradient according to a preliminary classification based on professional judgement, and the response of single metrics and assessment methods to different human pressure levels was evaluated.

The different indices are largely consistent in their response to pressure gradient, except in some particular cases (i.e. BITS, in all cases, or ISS when a low number of individuals is present). Inconsistencies between indicator responses were mostly in transitional waters (i.e. IQI, BEQI), highlighting the difficulties of the generic application of indicators to all marine, estuarine and lagoonal environments. However, some of the single (i.e. ecological groups approach, diversity, richness, SN) and multimetric methods (i.e. BAT, M-AMBI, NQI) were able to detect such gradients both in transitional and coastal environments. This study highlights the importance of survey design and good reference conditions for some indicators. The agreement observed between different methodologies and their ability to detect quality trends across distinct environments constitutes a promising result for the implementation of the WFD's monitoring plans.

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for transitional/coastal waters

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.3-1 (900 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.3-2a:
Manuscript on methodological approaches to the definition of type-specific reference conditions for benthic macroinvertebrates in transitional waters: the case study of Mediterranean lagoons

Defining 'reference conditions' (sensu the Water Framework Directive, hereafter WFD) in Mediterranean lagoons is challenging for three main reasons. Firstly, Mediterranean societies have used lagoons for hundreds of years: written and archaeological records dating back to Roman times document their uses - as naval ports (Averno, Amvrakikos Gulf), clam farming sites (Lucrino) etc. - and the human impact on them, including hydraulic modifications (Sabaudia) and chemical pollution from mining (Mar Menor). Therefore, pristine conditions are unlikely to exist in Mediterranean lagoons. Secondly, lagoons are naturally rich in nutrients and organic matter and are physically stressed, with strong and unstable internal gradients. A high degree of heterogeneity exists, both between and water bodies and within them.

All the main abiotic sources of natural variability and related uncertainty thus have to be taken into account in Mediterranean lagoon status assessments in order to evaluate benchmark conditions. Thirdly, lagoons are small when compared to their input ecosystems, i.e., the marine and freshwater realms from which almost all lagoon species come. Therefore, species composition is naturally highly variable between lagoons, mostly due to simple lottery competition: i.e. with lots of potential colonisers but very few available slots, those who come first get the best places.

Accounting for these peculiarities of Mediterranean lagoons, this study addressed two main issues in classifying its ecological status: testing the adequacy of the proposed typologies and defining type-specific reference conditions and related boundaries. Thus, using two WISER datasets we compared different approaches in order to identify the main sources of metric- specific uncertainty in Mediterranean lagoons, quantified their relevance, derived type-specific reference conditions and refined the boundaries for various assessment tools. The first of these datasets is based on a study of fourteen reference lagoons (or lagoon areas) in the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins, considering different habitat types within each lagoon.

The latter refers to a seasonal study of disturbed and undisturbed stations in Lesina lagoon carried out over two consecutive years. It is used to evaluate site-specific variability and propose methods to cope with it. Four multimetric indices used for benthic assessment were selected: BAT (Benthic Assessment Tool), BITS (Benthic Index based on Taxonomic Sufficiency), ISS (Index of Size Spectra) and M-AMBI (multivariate AMBI). The multimetric indices differ in terms of their general approach, being either taxonomic (BAT, BITS, M-AMBI) or non- taxonomic (ISS), and, in the case of the former, in terms of the level of taxonomic resolution, i.e. species (BAT and M-AMBI) or family (BITS).

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.3-2a (2.4 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.3-2b:
Manuscript on reference conditions for transitional waters: the North East Atlantic estuaries.

Transitional waters (TW) have shown to be one of the most challenging environments when assessing their ecological condition. Difficulties start immediately with their definition, and extend to a myriad of uncertainties associated with the natural variability of systems that encompass strong environmental gradients, promoting variable communities both in time and space. In this WISER Deliverable (3.4.2-b) we will focus, particularly, in estuaries 'tidal concept' sensu Tagliapietra et al. (2009), which are a particular environment within TW with recognized specific properties.

The major problems faced during the WFD implementation were associated with RC definition (both method and scale); distinguishing natural from anthropogenic stress; and the intercalibration among different methods. Clarify these aspects is critical for good management practices. This deliverable main goal is therefore to address key challenges regarding the definition of Reference Conditions (RC) in estuarine ecosystems, proposing a practical methodology to integrate them.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: Download will be available as soon as the accompanying paper is published.

Deliverable D4.3-3:
Manuscript on the responses of existing indicators to hydromorphological changes, including modelling of the ecological potential.

This study has shown that while there have been difficulties obtaining sufficient and appropriate data against which to test and judge the concept of GEP, we do have suitable methods for this if the data exist. Of greater concern, however, is the meaning and use of the GEP (Good Ecological Potential) concept within (a) the changes in small areas compared to assessments at the water body level, (b) the overlap between Reference Condition and the sites realising any potential after the removal of the hydromorphological pressure and (c) the adequacy of the available and derived quality metrics (both as single indices and multimetrics) at determining physical rather than organic changes to the bed sediments.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: Download will be available as soon as the accompanying paper is published.

Deliverable D4.3-4:
Manuscript on indicators for hard bottom substrata

Bayesian models were built for predicting the status of macroalgae, macrofauna, and macroalgae+macrofauna, within hard-bottom substrata of the Basque coast (Bay of Biscay, north Atlantic), at different shore levels. However, these models were not useful when applied to data from Portugal and Denmark, for validation. The model classification was too assertive, with small differences in the classification between stations in each country. This is usually desirable because it shows a classification with low uncertainty.

However, in this specific domain it is a disadvantage since the spatial heterogeneity must be observed in the classification of different stations in an area. Bayesian models can be useful if a large data set is available, including different levels of quality, within a gradient of human pressure.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.3-4 (1 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.4-1:
Review of fish-based indices to assess ecological quality condition in transitional waters
(Background for common metrics)

Estuaries (areas where rivers meet with the sea) and other coastal areas have been under the damaging influence of human habitation since historical times. Human alteration to once pristine habitats for wildlife has resulted in symptoms of degradation including alteration of watercourses, water quality problems and loss of aquatic fauna such as fish. It is important that these habitats and wildlife are protected from further damage, and that damaged areas are restored through effective management plans. One way to assess habitat conservation status is to analyse a sample of fish living in an estuary. The presence of any fish species indicates that the basic ecological requirements (food, shelter and reproduction) and a minimum water quality or habitat availability are being met. Likewise, finding species with stricter habitat requirements indicates better conservation status and hence less disturbed conditions for that area. Researchers worldwide have used this basic principle to define habitat integrity in monitoring programs.

This work reviews sixteen published fish-based indices of estuarine habitat integrity and summarises common development strategies with the aim of improving fish-based monitoring tools in Europe. Most indices are computed from a number of independent fish diversity measures, presence-absence of key species and composition of functional guilds (i.e. group of fish that rely on the same quality attribute). All index developers invest a large amount of effort on the formulation of the reference values, that is the quality or conservation value given to pristine, undisturbed, condition or reference status.

This deliverable is the background for Common metrics for transitional/coastal waters

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.4-1 (220 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.4-2 (part1):
Testing the adaptability and behaviour of 6 fish indices on a common dataset composed of multiple gears samplings from 8 estuaries and lagoons

The present work focuses on fish indicators for estuaries and lagoons (transitional waters in the WFD). Six fish indices (AFI, EFAI, ELFI, TFCI, BHI, Z-EBI) were tested on a common dataset, covering eight estuaries and lagoons throughout Europe. Fish sampling was carried out using several gears in 2009 and 2010. The objectives were twofold: (i) to test the adaptability of fish indices to different gears and different types of transitional waters; and (ii) to compare the behaviour of the indices with regard to their level of agreement.

Five out of the six tested indices were gear-specific and all were specific to some type(s) of transitional waters and have particular data needs. Therefore calculating the indices on a common dataset raised many difficulties, especially regarding the determination of appropriate reference condition values. However, taking some reasonable assumptions it was possible to calculate most of the indices on the majority of the available data, thus showing their relative adaptability. The indication of extreme values for quality (high or bad) was relatively rare and the results of the indices often differed: when used outside of their initial framework, geographical limits or with different sampling methods, fish indices' results are highly uncertain. This shows that the assessment of quality using fish indicators highly depends on the assessment tool, the sampling methodology and the type of transitional water. Despite these results, some statistically significant correlations between pairs of indices' results were found, indicating the possibility of intercalibration between some of the tested indices.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.4-2_part1 (800 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.4-2 (part2):
The ecological status assessment of transitional waters: an uncertainty analysis for the most commonly used fish metrics in Europe

The present work focuses on fish-based indicators for estuarine and lagoon (transitional waters in the WFD) quality. Changes in fish assemblages may not only reflect human impact but also several other sources of variability linked to sampling and natural parameters. This is especially true in transitional waters where natural abiotic variability is extremely high (Elliott and Quintino 2007). For reliable fish-based ecological status assessment, the natural sources of variability impacting fish assemblages need to be identified and their impact on fish metrics and fish indicators must be assessed and, if possible, reduced (Clarke and Hering 2006, Staniszewski et al. 2006). In this context, we focus on the variability sources potentially affecting fish metrics for transitional waters. Hence the present work represents the first step of a global uncertainty assessment with the following these main goals:
  • To give an overview of all factors that may affect the value of the most common WFD fish metrics in use for transitional waters and to identify the key sources of variability for these metrics.
  • To test the effect of these key sources of variability on individual fish metrics using a European dataset.
  • To indicate the general requirements of a sampling protocol that minimizes uncertainty for the fish-based assessment of transitional waters and to highlight main estuarine or lagoon features responsible for natural between estuaries or lagoon variability.
  • Finally, a method based on a Bayesian framework is proposed to objectively combine fish metrics in a multimetric indicator

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.4-2_part2 (700 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.4-3:
Report detailing Multimetric fish-based indices sensitivity to anthropogenic and natural pressures, and to metrics variation range

The present work focuses on the response of fish indicators and indices to anthropogenic pressures and natural factors. For doing that, datasets from the Basque and Portuguese estuaries, in the North East Atlantic, have been used. Hence, biological data from fish (and in some cases, crustaceans), together with different types of pressure (population, industry, ports, dredging, global pressures, pollution, channeling, etc.) and hydromorphological data (flow, estuary volume, depth, intertidal surface, residence time, etc.) have been analyzed.

Together with fish assemblages composition and individual metrics (richness, trophic composition, etc.), two fish indices (Basque AFI and Portuguese EFAI) have been investigated. Additionally, the response of five fish indices (AFI, EFAI, ELFI, TFCI, Z-EBI) were tested on a common dataset, within Portuguese estuaries, to check the time lag in the metrics response to different human pressures and the variability in the strength of responses to those pressures.

This work also focuses on the sensitivity analysis of two European fish-based indices (French ELFI and British TFCI) to changes in their respective metric scores through their observed dynamic range. Sensitivity analyses were run simulating different scenarios of metric score changes, taking into consideration the relationship between metrics. This allowed the metrics with stronger influence in the index score and the resulting water body classification to be highlighted. Importantly, the identification of the most influential metrics could help to guide management efforts in terms of achieving GES by 2015.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.4-3 (4.3 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.4-4:
Report summarising the definitions of reference conditions using predictive models for ecological endpoints for fish in transitional waters

The present work focuses on fish-based quality indicators for estuaries and lagoons (transitional waters under WFD terminology). Fish assemblages highly depend on natural features, both temporal and geographical, at small and large scale. This is especially true in transitional waters where natural abiotic variability is extremely high (Dauvin et Ruellet 2009, Dauvin 2007, Elliott et Quintino 2007). Moreover, the measured indicators (or metrics) characterising fish assemblages highly depend on the sampling method and sampling characteristics. For these reasons, any reference condition for fish in transitional waters must take into account these parameters.

There are nearly no transitional waters in Europe that can be considered as being in pristine condition and historical data are not available for all transitional water types. In this context, the aim of the present work is to propose a modelling approach to define type-specific reference conditions for fish assemblages in transitional waters in Europe.

The modelling of reference conditions was tested on 13 fish metrics overall, including seven of the most commonly used WFD fish metrics and all the metrics composing the French Estuary and Lagoon Fish Index ELFI. A fish dataset covering 39 estuaries and 14 lagoons distributed across six countries (Bulgaria, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal) and sampled between 2003 and 2010 was available.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.4-4 (300 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D4.4-5:
Precision and behaviour of fish-based ecological quality metrics in relation to natural and anthropogenic pressure gradients in European estuaries and lagoons

This report summarises the work conducted in Work Package 4.4 – BQE fish in transitional (i.e. estuarine and lagoon) waters (TW) within the project WISER under the sponsorship of the European Commission. It omits most technical details of the analyses given in the four previous Work Package reports, but still provides the necessary information to understand the rationale, approach and underlying assumptions necessary to discuss the results. The focus is therefore to discuss and integrate the results obtained within Work Package 4.4 and with this, make recommendations to improve fish-based ecological assessments in TW, principally estuaries and lagoons.

In addition, and to assist with the WFD implementation which is the overarching theme of WISER, the deliverable includes, where appropriate, case studies where we have used multi-metric fish indices currently under development, or already in use for WFD compliance monitoring across Europe. Furthermore, results of the work package have been shared with relevant Geographical Intercalibration Groups (GIGs) supporting the harmonization and equalization process across transitional fish indices in Europe.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D4.4-5 (2.4 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.1-1 draft:
Conceptual models of the impact of degradation and restoration on riverine aquatic organisms

Anthropogenic degradation of aquatic ecosystems—rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters— is manifold, pervasive and dates back for centuries in Europe. The ecosystems are affected by physical, chemical, hydrological and morphological modifications, all of which impose environmental pressures on the structure and function of aquatic communities. Human impacts on aquatic ecology have frequently been studies and numerous indicators for assessment and monitoring of various environmental impacts on aquatic ecosystems were developed.

In response, the knowledge about the linkages between environmental pressures and aquatic communities was used to derive appropriate measures to rehabilitate and restore aquatic ecosystems. Restoration ecology is often assuming that communities are beginning to recover as soon as the pressures are reduced or removed. However, the simple reversal of degradation equally often does not show the desired and anticipated ecological effect and the biota continue to stay 'degraded'. Firstly, the small spatial scale of many restoration measures does not fit the often very broad-scale degradation at the catchment level; secondly monitoring activities are rather short-term and do not sufficiently account for long time periods required for restoration; and thirdly, the knowledge about a catchment's potential for recovery is sparse.

Module 5 of the WISER project will model relationships between restoration measures, their effect on environmental pressures and finally their ecological effect on aquatic communities. This report on Conceptual Models of degradation and recovery aims at providing a conceptual framework for guiding such studies within the WISER project. The models transfer the relationships between environmental pressures and biological impact and between restoration measures and biological recovery into cause-effect chains, while the linkages are based on an evaluation of the peer-reviewed literature. Hypotheses can be derived from well-referenced chains and can be tested with causative data analyses. Moreover, the results will be used to set up predictive models on the community's recovery after restoration. Finally, knowledge gaps can be identified and summarised to guide future research.

This draft version aims at outlining the general approach to develop the Conceptual Models. General examples are derived from the existing restoration literature and are illustrated. More examples will be provided with the final version due in May 2010. The final version will also address the quantification of cause-effect chains and the identification of important knowledge gaps.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.1-1_draft (510 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.1-1:
Conceptual models of the impact of degradation and restoration on riverine aquatic organisms

Anthropogenic degradation of aquatic ecosystems—rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters—is manifold, pervasive and dates back for centuries in Europe. The ecosystems are affected by physical, chemical, hydrological and morphological modifications, all of which impose environmental pressures on the structure and function of aquatic communities. The knowledge about the linkages between environmental pressures and aquatic communities can be used to derive appropriate measures to rehabilitate and restore aquatic ecosystems. Module 5 of the WISER project is going to model the relationships between restoration measures, their effect on environmental pressures and finally their ecological effect on aquatic communities.

Deliverable 5.1-1 is a report on "Conceptual Models of degradation and recovery" and aims at providing a conceptual framework for guiding such studies within the WISER project. The models transfer the relationships between environmental pressures and biological impact and between restoration measures and biological recovery into cause-effect chains, while the linkages are based on an evaluation of the peer-reviewed literature. Hypotheses can be derived from well-referenced chains and can be tested with causative data analyses. Moreover, the results will be used to set up predictive models on the community's recovery after restoration. Finally, knowledge gaps can be identified and summarised to guide future research.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.1-1 (500 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.1-2:
Driver-Pressure-Impact and Response- Recovery chains in European rivers: observed and predicted effects on BQEs

This report summarises the results of empirical analysis and literature surveys on both the response of biological assemblages to environmental pressures (stressors) and to pressure reduction (restoration/management) in river ecosystems. Part one of the report introduces the reader to the WISER WP5.1 database underlying all empirical analysis presented in the following.

Part II continues with the analysis of pressure-impact relationships for four major groups of environmental pressures (physico-chemical/water quality, hydrological, morphological and land use-related degradation) and four biological assemblages (BQEs: benthic diatoms, macrophytes, benthic invertebrates and fishes).This part highlights the impacts of different stressors and its hierarchy with regard to the effects on different organism groups. The strengths (intensity) of relationships between pressures and organisms as well as the detectable stress (sensitivity) levels are referred to.

Part III of the report is dedicated to the analysis of the effects of restoration on riverine organisms. This Chapter is building a on previous report (Deliverable 5.1-1) that outlined the conceptualised effects of river restoration and management on river biota based on a literature survey of restoration studies worldwide. Finally, part IV attempts to summarise the observed and predicted (predictable) effects and draws appropriate implications for River Basin Management to inform the restoration and management practitioners.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.1-2 (7.5 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.1-3:
BQEs sensitivity to global/climate change in European rivers: implications on reference conditions and pressure-impact-recovery chains

This report encompasses several studies that try to assess the consequences of climate change on the future presence/absence of fish species in European rivers. In the first part of this report we estimate the ecological preferences of fish species, such as the temperatures in which this species could occur.

The part II uses these preferences to assess how fish species would be able to cope with the future climatic conditions. These modifications have been computed for four scenarios of climate change. This part highlights the sensitivity of species preferring cool- or coldwaters to climate change. Brown trout or grayling will suffer from temperature increase and their habitat will be greatly reduced. On contrary species living in warm rivers will benefit from temperature increase. The third part of this report concerns a long term study of a grayling population in the Traun River in Austria. During the last 30 years, the water temperature of this river increase by 2.2 °C and the abundance of the grayling sharply decrease.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.1-3 (15 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.1-4:
Guidance on management options and measures of pressure reduction to improve the ecological status of rivers with emphasis on the implications of global/climate change

The demand to restore riverine ecosystems and improve their overall ecological quality has greatly increased since 2000. Restoration successes can be strongly enhanced when both empirical knowledge and ecological theory are being combined and used during the planning and implementation of restoration schemes. This “River restoration and management guidance for practitioners” guidance document summarises the knowledge obtained during the WISER project and identifies principles from project experiences and ecological theory that have been, or could be, used to guide practical riverine restoration. Ten key guidelines are presented.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.1-4 (4 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.2-1:
Analysis of applied modeling approaches in the case studies

The usage of models in lake and river basin management is often cumbersome and confusing due to the insufficient monitoring data, the opacity of complex models and to the uncertainty of predictions. Thus, clear guidance and criteria for model usage in lake management is needed.

Deliverable 5.2-1:"Analysis of applied modeling approaches in the case studies" consists of results from the evaluation of case study models as a part of efforts of Task 4 and WP5.2 to provide river basin managers, stake holders and model end users with the guidance of model usage in the prediction of implications of pressure reduction and of management and in the optimal use of models in lake and catchment management. Interaction of monitoring, modeling and management will be particularly emphasized.

The usability of empirical and mechanistic models in the prediction of impact of catchment management strategies and of climate change on pressures and ecological status of Lake Veluwe in Netherlands and Lake Pyhäjärvi in Finland were analyzed. Communication between modelers and users throughout the modeling processes were reviewed. Supplementary experience from the modeling of Norwegian lakes was gained.

The analysis was based on the model benchmark criteria and the quality assurance (QA) guidance tools developed by BMW (Benchmark models for the water framework directive), the criteria of models in the implementation of TMDL analysis in US (Reckhow 2001) and HarmoniQuA (Harmonised Modelling Tools for Integrated Basin Management for implementing the Water Framework Directive") projects, respectively. The criteria and the guidelines were used to assess the choosing and using of models in the implementation of WFD.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.2-1 (5.2 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.2-2:
Report on using BQEs as indicators for effects of reducing pressures

In this deliverable we have evaluated how selected BQE's (Biological Quality Elements) and metrics react to nutrient loading reduction. We concentrate on fish, zooplankton (not a BQE today, but hopefully in the future as it is an important indicator) and phytoplankton. Too few data were available on macrophytes and macroinvertebrate to draw any firm conclusions.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.2-2 (3.1 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.2-3:
Guidelines on the use of different modelling approaches for designing Program of Measures

A large variety of lake ecosystem models is available, ranging from simple lineair regression models to complex dynamic deterministic models, from expert judgement based models to (large sets of) data driven models. Based on the lessons learned from the WISER case studies where different type of models were applied, and after reviewing existing guidelines, a new set of guidelines is developed to support the selection of models and to apply the models selected conform the protocol of good modelling practice.

For a successful application of lake ecosystem models in the context of supporting lake managers in designing restoration and mitigation measures to improve the ecological status of lakes, the following 10 steps are commended:

  • Step 1: Close cooperation with end-users in the formulation of management questions that need to be addressed in the model application.
  • Step 2: Designing conceptual models together with end-users to have a common understanding and to create a clear picture about the issues that should be addressed.
  • Step 3: Identify together with the end-users the model requirements within the constraints of time, money and data-availability.
  • Step 4: Select together with the end-users the models that are needed to analyse and quantify the effectiveness of restoration measures.
  • Step 5: Set up your lake ecosystem modelling framework by translating the conceptual model into a set specific model, including the processing of data in order to prepare input files necessary for executing the model
  • Step 6: Calibrate and validate the lake ecosystem model according to the procedures of good modelling practice.
  • Step 7: Conduct a sensitivity analysis to identify the appropriateness of the model structure and parameter estimation
  • Step 8: Quantify the (magnitude of) uncertainties in the model structure, model parameters and model predictions.
  • Step 9: Discuss the results of the validation and sensitivity and uncertainty analysis with the end-users.
  • Step 10: Conduct the simulation and evaluation activities, including non scientific reporting of the impacts of management measures to the end-users.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.2-3 (4.9 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.2-4:
LLR - Internet tool (model to assess target loads) for lake managers

As the Water Framework Directive requires water bodies to be in good ecological status in the future, it is essential to be able to develop and apply tools that can be used for estimating the required pressure levels to achieve good status.

The eutrophication of European lakes was studied using a linear mixed effects chlorophyll a model which was fitted to 461 European lakes. The effect of total phosphorus, total nitrogen and water temperature on chlorophyll a concentrations varied within WFD affiliated lake types. The data structure was three-way nested as in every lake type there were several lakes and from every lake multiple chlorophyll a samples were taken. By using the linear mixed effects model for nested data we could substantially decrease the variation of this kind of data by selecting both the fixed effects and variance structure properly to get more reliable estimates. The statistical inference was based on Bayesian approach thus giving a more realistic assessment of the effect of model uncertainty.

Based on the data analysis of the European data set, the effect of climate warming on eutrophication proved to be positive. Thus, in warmer climatic conditions, a bigger reduction of nutrients is needed to achieve good ecological condition in a lake. For predicting phytoplankton response to the reduction of nutrient load and climate change, a chlorophyll a model was developed. This model was then included in the LakeLoadResponse (LLR) internet tool.

LLR tool delivers predictions on water quality status with statistical confidence intervals to give more insight for the management actions to be taken. The LakeLoadResponse (LLR) model tool has been developed in Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) originally for Finnish river basin managers to ease the use of the models in lake management planning. During the WISER project the LLR tool has been further developed to answer the problems caused by the climate warming. Therefore the LLR user interface has been translated from Finnish to English and the data used in the modelling is from the large European database (WISER data). Open access internet tool LLR makes it easy to estimate needed reduction of nutrient load in a variety of climatic conditions. With LLR tool it is possible to test how the changes in water temperature and different risk levels affect the nutrient reduction needed. LLR produces water quality predictions with statistical confidence intervals to give more insight for the management actions to be taken.

LLR tool has been successfully used in Finland for river basin management. At the moment the beta version of European wide LLR tool has been tested. Although the preliminary results seem to be quite encouraging, the model has to be improved for some points and the LLR interface further updated.

See also LLR in the software section

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.2-4 (3.5 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.2-5:
Report on effects of global change on reference conditions and ecological status of lakes

The report summarizes the progress made within the WISER project in the following areas:

  • Reviewing the current understanding of the impacts of climate change on lakes and how this can be utilised to develop and improve our understanding of lake restoration.
  • Investigating the pathways of degradation in lakes where eutrophication has been the primary stressor and examining how these pathways react during lake recovery following remedial action.
  • Two further studies are presented which use lake sediment records and long-term monitoring data sets to assess the relative importance of climate versus eutrophication.
  • The role of cladocerans in tracking long-term changes in shallow lakes is explored; a study which highlights the sensitivity of this biological group and presents it as a strong candidate as the single best indicator for assessing trophic change in lakes.
  • Finally Baysian network models are presented as an effective tool for unravelling the complex interaction between the impacts of lake restoration and climate change on the ecological status of lakes.

In addition to providing an assessment of the various tools available for tracking environmental change in lakes, this report highlights the complexities of ecosystem recovery under changing global conditions. A reduction of environmental stressors (e.g. eutrophication) will undoubtedly result in ecosystem improvement, but it is unlikely to simply be the reversal of deterioration and some examples show that recovery may lead to conditions very different from the original undisturbed stage. These studies contribute towards the scientific basis for underpinning the management of freshwaters in order that it is strengthened and targeted appropriately

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.2-5 (4.1 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.2-6:
Synthesis paper on options for lake management to improve ecological status Resistance to climate change in focus

It is important to understand the mechanisms of climate induced effects on recovery of lakes to identify cost efficient management measures and to set up reasonable reference conditions and ecological classification. These mechanisms were studied by Work package W5.2 using extensive data on ecological quality indicators and key environmental variables.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.2-6 (4.2 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.3-1:
Temperature effects on hypoxia and benthic fauna

Hypoxia is a mounting problem affecting the world's coastal waters, with severe consequences for marine life, including death and catastrophic changes. The deleterious effects of hypoxia can be amplified by warming. Global warming will contribute to decrease the global average dissolved oxygen in the oceans worldwide, and may also affect the oxygen requirements of marine benthic macrofauna. Increasing temperature diminishes oxygen solubility and increases the respiration rates of organisms, as temperature plays a fundamental role in regulating metabolic processes. Increased temperature will likely affect the responses of marine benthic organisms to hypoxia because metabolic rates increase exponentially with temperature. Ocean warming is expected to increase the vulnerability of benthic macrofauna to reduced oxygen concentrations and expand the area of coastal ecosystems affected by hypoxia. Here we evaluate the effects of warming in the oxygen thresholds for benthic macrofauna with the basis of a literature survey.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.3-1 (900 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.3-2:
Shifting reference conditions and boundaries for BQE indicators

Empirical relationships between phytoplankton biomass and nutrient concentrations established across a wide range of different ecosystems constitute fundamental quantitative tools for predicting effects of nutrient management plans. Nutrient management plans based on such relationships, mostly established over trends of increasing rather than decreasing nutrient concentrations, assume full reversibility of coastal eutrophication. Monitoring data from 28 ecosystems located in four well-studied regions were analyzed to study the generality of chlorophyll a versus nutrient relationships and their applicability for ecosystem management.

We demonstrate significant differences across regions as well as between specific coastal ecosystems within regions in the response of chlorophyll a to changing nitrogen concentrations. We also show that the chlorophyll a versus nitrogen relationships over time constitute convoluted trajectories rather than simple unique relationships. The ratio of chlorophyll a to total nitrogen almost doubled over the last 30-40 years across all regions. The uniformity of these trends, or shifting baselines, suggest they may result from large-scale changes, possibly associated with global climate change and increasing human stress on coastal ecosystems. Ecosystem management must, therefore, develop adaptation strategies to face shifting baselines and maintain ecosystem services at a sustainable level rather than striving at restoring an ecosystem state of the past.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.3-2 (2 mb, pdf)

Deliverable 5.3-3:
Comparison of mechanistic and statistical approaches for catchment management in coastal waters

In this report, the aim was to compare mechanistic and statistical models including Bayesian techniques to identify linkage between pressure variables and the responses of biological quality elements in the non-tidal, oligohaline River Vantaa estuary in the Baltic Sea and in the meso- macro-tidal Nervión estuary in Basque coast.

In River Vantaa estuary, trophic conditions are elevated due to huge nutrient loading. Based on the model simulations, reducing TN concentrations in river water would decrease concentrations in the estuary, whereas reduction of phosphorus inputs from the river alone would not improve the trophic status, meaning that the reduction of the level of TP in the Gulf of Finland is required, as well.

However, exchange of water with the open sea did not alone explain elevated trophic level in the estuary. The huge loading in the 1970s and 1980s raised nutrient reserves in the bottom sediment and accelerated benthic release of nutrients, i.e. internal loading, proved by an atypical seasonal distribution of phosphorus and high amounts of chlorophyll a in summer.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.3-3 (5.5 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D5.3-4:
Effects of nutrient input reductions and uncertainties

Eelgrass depth limits and water clarity in the Skive Fjord estuarine system have not improved despite nutrient input reductions of 30%. Long-term monitoring data (1989-2010) were used to investigate the underlying causes of this apparent paradox. Dissolved inorganic and organic nitrogen concentrations decreased significantly over time, whereas particulate organic nitrogen concentration, assumed to consist primarily of phytoplankton and phytoplankton detritus and calculated as a proportional factor to chlorophyll a, did not change. Total organic carbon, mostly of autochthonous origin, remained constant despite reduced nitrogen concentrations, resulting in an increasing C:N ratio of the organic material in the water column. Primary production also remained constant suggesting that phytoplankton growth was only limited by nitrogen to a minor degree.

Alleviated grazing pressure caused by a reduction in the blue mussel standing stock and a pelagic food web dominated by jellyfish may have contributed to the constantly high phytoplankton levels. Particulate inorganic matter, likely reflecting sediment resuspension, increased over time, most probably in response to removal of blue mussels and declining eelgrass cover. The Skive Fjord estuarine system is affected by multiple pressures - nutrient enrichment, mussel dredging, fishery and climate change that must be addressed together for water clarity to improve and eelgrass to recover. Thus, eutrophication could not be reversed simply by reducing nutrient inputs, as the pathway of recovery is more complex than that of degradation and involves other pressures than nutrients.

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: This deliverable is not available for download.

Deliverable 5.3-5:
Effects of nutrient reductions in transitional and coastal waters Synthesis and Guidelines

Hypoxia is a mounting problem affecting the world's coastal waters, with severe consequences for marine life, including death and catastrophic changes. The deleterious effects of hypoxia are amplified by warming. Global warming will contribute to decrease the global average dissolved oxygen in the oceans worldwide, and will also affect the oxygen requirements of marine benthic macrofauna. Increasing temperature diminishes oxygen solubility and increases the respiration rates of organisms, as temperature plays a fundamental role in regulating metabolic processes. Ocean warming increases the vulnerability of benthic macrofauna to reduced oxygen, increasing the mortality of benthic fauna and greatly extending the area of coastal ecosystems affected by hypoxia-driven mortality...

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D5.3-5 (700 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D6.1-1:
Report on a workshop to bring together experts experienced with tool development and uncertainty estimation

Any index of ecological status according to the Water Framework Directive is of little use without some knowledge of the associated uncertainty connected with, for instance, sampling and identification of the organisms. Could we have classified a lake quite differently if we had taken another sample or just surveyed a different part of it? What confidence do we have that an estuary is really of good or better status? What is the likelihood that there has been a real improvement in lake quality based on the sampling method and indices we have used?

A major part of the WISER project is a field sampling and surveying campaign for phytoplankton, invertebrates, plants and fish at each of a range of types and qualities of lakes, coastal and transitional waters. Deliverable 6.1-1 summarises the outcome of an uncertainty workshop that was used to learn from past experiences, especially from rivers, in assessing sampling variability of different methods and indices, with quantifying variability in space and time, and with sample processing, sub-sampling and taxonomic identification errors and their quality assurance.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.1-1 (1.1 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D6.1-2:
Manuscript reviewing components of uncertainty and their assessment, including guidelines for estimation and quality assurance

Since the introduction of the European Union Water Framework Directive in 2000, considerable effort has been made the Member States to develop biological assessment and monitoring systems for the ecological status class of all of their water bodies (river stretches, lakes, transitional and coastal waters) based on one or more biological quality elements (fish, macroinvertebrates, diatoms-phytoplankton, macrophytes and physical habitats). In accordance with the WFD, these assessment systems have usually been derived by the use of one or more biological indices (often termed metrics) derived from the sampled biological taxonomic composition and diversity, which are converted to Ecological Quality Ratios (EQRs) through standardised by reference condition values of the metric(s) for each water body type and then classified into one of five ecological status classes. All of these steps and every sampling and other methodological decisions you make can affect the waterbody assessment and are potential sources error or uncertainty.

In this paper, the various sources of uncertainty are considered in more detail. The best-available datasets for assessing uncertainty in WFD status class of UK rivers based on macroinvertebrate sampling are used to demonstrate how spatial and temporal variance in metric values can be estimated. New free-available software WISERBUGS (WISER Bioassessment Uncertainty Guidance Software) is described which can help to quantify the effect of this estimated sampling variability on the confidence of assigning water bodies to status classes.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.1-2 (500 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D6.1-3:
WISERBUGS (WISER Bioassessment Uncertainty Guidance Software) tool for assessing confidence of WFD ecological status class

The WISERBUGS software program has been written to provide a general means of using simulations to assess uncertainty in estimates of ecological status class for water bodies based on either single metrics or a combination of metrics, multi-metric indices (MMIs) and multi- metric rules. The User provides prior estimates of the relevant sampling uncertainty for each metric and metric value to be involved in the water body assessments, together with metric status class limits and the rules for combining metrics into an overall water body assessment.

WISERBUGS can also be used just to test the effect of new status class limits and multi-metric rules on site/waterbody status assessments, without any uncertainty assessment (by setting all uncertainty components to zero).

Although initially designed for use with river macroinvertebrate data and metrics, program WISERBUGS is designed to be as generic as possible, so that it can be used with a wide range of metrics derived from field site sampling and survey data for any single or combination of biological quality elements (BQEs, namely phytoplankton, aquatic flora, macroinvertebrates and/or fish) and any type of water body (rivers, lakes, transitional or coastal waters).

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.1-3 (580 kb, pdf)

setup preview

arrow download Download WISERBUGS setup (4.5 mb, zip/exe, please read included "readme.txt")

Deliverable D6.2-1:
Review of approaches for combining BQEs in WFD assessment

The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000/60/EC) represents a modern and holistic water policy for the European Union and defines clear specific tasks. The environmental objectives laid down in Article 4 require Member States (MS) to prevent deterioration of surface waters and to protect, enhance and restore all waters with the aim of achieving good ecological status and good chemical status by 2015.

The first WFD Implementation Report of the Commission (2007) showed that many water bodies across Europe were at risk of failing to reach these objectives. The next step is then to assess and classify the status of the water bodies in line with the requirements established in Annex V of the WFD. The Commission encourages Member States to put in place a comprehensive national ecological assessment and classification system as the basis for implementing the WFD and meeting its 'good ecological status' objective.

New methods for assessing ecological status have been developed or are being developed in most of the Member States. Intercalibration (IC) wants to ensure that the understanding of good ecological status is the same across Europe and comparability in classification results of assessment methods for the biological quality elements. However, the results of the first phase of intercalibration (van de Bund 2009, Poikane 2009, Carletti & Heiskanen 2009) showed a number of gaps. Firstly some water categories (transitional waters) were not intercalibrated at all, secondly results did not cover the full biological quality elements (BQEs) but only a part of them. The second phase of intercalibration aims to close these gaps and to improve comparability of the results in time for the second river management basin plans due in 2015 (ECOSTAT Guidance on intercalibration process, 2009).

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.2-1 (6.6 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D6.2-2:
Manuscripts on combination of BQEs in water body assessment

One challenging aspect of the WFD is aggregating disparate information from different taxonomic groups into an overall ecological assessment of individual systems. In the context of a common strategy for supporting a coherent and harmonious implementation of the WFD, a classification guidance was produced in 2003 (Working group 2A), which suggested combination rules for biological metrics within individual BQEs and combination rules for use across multiple biological quality elements, towards a final waterbody ecological assessment.

An important outcome from this work was that, in accordance with the precautionary principle, a 'one-out-all-out' (OOAO) rule should be applied when integrating multiple BQEs into an overall biological status of a waterbody, i.e. classification is determined by the lowest class status among all the BQEs. The OOAO rule is intended to protect the ecosystem and the BQE most vulnerable to the most dominant pressure or combination of pressures. This principle has, however, been criticized for increasing the probability of committing a false positive error (erroneously downgrading a waterbody to a worse class) (Sandin, 2005; Hering et al., 2010).

deliverable preview

arrow download Note: This deliverable is not available for download.

Deliverable D6.2-3:
Report from the end-user workshop Combination of BQEs into a complete water body assessment

The main results of WISER Workpackage 6.2 'Combination of BQEs into a complete water body assessment' and related work on uncertainty in ecological assessment were presented to end users during the Final Conference held in Tallinn, Estonia 25-26 January 2012.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.2-3 (800 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D6.2-4:
Key Findings and recommendations on combining classification results across biological quality elements

This report presents key messages from WISER work package 6.2 'Combination of BQEs into a complete water body assessment'. It is based on presentations and discussions with end users during the WISER Final Conference held in Tallin in January 2012; a report of the end-user workshop is available as WISER Deliverable 6.2-3.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.2-4 (400 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D6.3-1:
Report from workshop on among BQEs, habitats and systems comparisons

The main aims of workpackage 6.3 are to study the responses of different Biological Quality Elements (BQE) in different surface water types; to determine if/how responses of different organism groups differ between ecosystems (e.g. lake vs stream) and between habitats within ecosystems (e.g. pelagic vs benthic) to stress gradients related to hydromorphological alteration and nutrient enrichment.

During the mid-term meeting in Debe, Poland, in September 2010 the workpackage participants discussed the aims and objectives of the workpackage. A roadmap was developed with particular focus on data accrual and analyses. This report summarizes the outcome and decisions agreed upon during the meeting.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.3-1 (450 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D6.3-2:
Report and manuscript on the use of BQEs, habitats and ecosystems for detecting human- induced change

Few studies have compared the response of bioindicators (i.e. different taxonomic groups) to different types of environmental stress across aquatic ecosystems. We regressed assemblage structure of fish, invertebrates, macrophytes, phytoplankton and benthic diatoms to multivariate gradients in nutrient enrichment and land use using data from 67 streams and 59 lakes covering a wide variety of stream and lake types.

In streams, the structure of fish assemblages showed the strongest response to elevated nutrient concentrations, followed by invertebrates, macrophytes and benthic diatoms. Invertebrate assemblage structure was slightly better correlated with the land use gradient than assemblage structure of macrophytes and fish; benthic diatoms were unrelated to land- use gradient.

For lakes, macrophyte assemblage structure was the best predictor of changes in nutrient concentrations, followed by phytoplankton and fish assemblages. Macrophyte assemblage structure was also better correlated with the landuse gradient compared to phytoplankton and fish assemblages. Fish assemblages in streams and macrophyte assemblages in lakes were correlated with the other taxonomic groups.

Our findings suggest that macrophytes in lakes and fish in streams may be used as surrogates for indicating overall change in diversity to overarching stress types. Our results show that response trajectories differ between taxonomic groups and ecosystem type. These contrasting response signatures show how different taxonomic groups can be used to monitor large-scale, long-term changes to major stress gradients that were apparent, despite using disparate stream and lake types in the analyses.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.3-2 (2.1 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D6.4-1:
Biological processes of connectivity and metapopulation dynamics in aquatic ecosystem restoration

In this review a literature study and results from EURO-LIMPACS are used to define relevant biological processes of connectivity and metapopulation dynamics as parts of the development of cause-effect and recovery chains. The review focuses on the over-arching biological processes of connectivity and metapopulation dynamics for freshwaters (lakes, rivers and marine ecosystems). The report starts with general definitions, concepts and ecological theory behind connectivity and metapopulation dynamics in relation to restoration. Some of the methods to describe and quantify dispersal behaviour, metapopulation dynamics, connectivity and colonization events are reviewed.

Specific case studies are described that show the role of connectivity and metapopulation dynamics in restoration success. Restoration success is dependent on the possibility of populations to colonize the new and restored habitat. Due to knowledge gaps and scale discrepancies, both habitat and dispersal constraints still restrict restoration outcome in many programmes. Determining the right scale for species, the extent of the required (different) habitats, the scale a which processes like dispersal and connectivity occur in the context of restoration and even the scale at which large-scale processes that eventually influence habitat quality is an important aspect of successful restoration. However the spatial scales that are most important often remain poorly understood. Finally, our main aim was to construct a driver – pressure – state – impact – recovery chain for the biological processes of metacommunity dynamics and connectivity.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.4-1 (3.8 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D6.4-2:
Report on the differences between cause-effect-recovery chains of different drivers within water categories

The WFD aims to combine catchment scale understanding across a range of aquatic ecosystems to improve ecological status within specific river basins. Catchment-wide integrated river basin management requires knowledge on cause-effect-recovery chains within water bodies as well as on the interactions between water bodies and categories.

The aim of Deliverable 6.4-2 is to compare differences between cause-effect-recovery chains of different drivers/stressors within different water categories for different organism groups. To meet the deliverable's aim, the current body of literature was surveyed for recovery studies. More specific recovery processes from eutrophication and acidification in lakes and from hydromorphological degradation in rivers. For estuarine and coastal (marine) waters, different anthropogenic pressures were studied.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.4-2 (2.9 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D6.4-3:
Final report on impact of catchment scale processes and climate change on cause-effect and recovery-chains

Catchment wide integrated basin management requires knowledge on cause-effect and recovery chains within water bodies as well as on the interactions between water bodies and categories. In the WISER WP6.4 recovery processes in rivers, lakes and estuarine and coastal waters were evaluated. The major objectives were:

  • To analyse and compare (cause-effect and) recovery chains within water categories based on processes and structural and functional features.
  • To detect commonalities among different chains in different water categories. Thus, to compare recovery chains between water categories.
  • To link recovery chains to over-arching biological processes and global change.
  • To develop a method to combine recovery effects in a summarising 'catchment' metric. The main stressors studied to reach these objectives were acidification, eutrophication and hydromorphological changes.

To compare recovery-chains within water bodies and between water categories information was extracted from published reports and peer-reviewed papers. Apart from a variety of about 20 major reviews, three major sources of information were included. For rivers 370 papers were reviewed and 168 papers were analysed by Feld et al. (2011). For lakes 302 lake-equivalent recovery case studies for which eutrophication was the major stressor were analysed in detail by Spears et al. (2011). Also, 30 peer-reviewed publications reporting on the management of 41 eutrophic lakes were reviewed in more detail. For estuarine and coastal waters the review of 51 studies by Borja et al. (2010) was the major information source.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D6.4-3 (2.1 mb, pdf)

Deliverable D7.2-1:
First announcement and website of WISER final conference

WISER final conference will take place on 23-26 January 2012 in Tallinn, Estonia. The objectives of the conference is to disseminate the major scientific results of WISER and to provide a platform to present applicability of the developed tools and approaches. The focus will be on a science-policy interface with specific sessions for in-depth scientific presentations and hands-on sessions for the end users. The meeting will start with the final WISER project meeting (Monday and Tuesday) and continues with the final conference on Wednesday and Thursday.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D7.2-1 (400 kb, pdf)

Deliverable D7.2-6:
End-user summary and booklet

From March 2009 until February 2012, more than 120 scientists of the EU-funded project WISER addressed major knowledge gaps in the assessment and management of Europe’s surface waters. The outcome comprises new assessment approaches for lakes, transitional and coastal waters. Assemblage metrics were developed and tested for reliability and uncertainty of their response to different environmental stressors, some of which were also useful for intercalibration.

With regard to aquatic ecosystem management, the response of aquatic assemblages to mitigation and restoration were examined, while potential effects of climate change were explicitly involved in this examination. While the overall outcome is being presented publicly at www.wiser.eu, this document aims at presenting the conclusions that may be drawn form the WISER outcome, also in light of the state-of-the-art as reported in the contemporary literature. These conclusions of the WISER consortium are far from being complete, but may provide a concise collection of helpful key messages for the practitioners in river basin management to better inform future management and restoration of Europe's waters. For more detailed results and conclusions, the reader is invited to access the products and reports as indicated at the end of this document.

deliverable preview

arrow download Download D7.2-6 (3.7 mb, pdf)


WISER: "Water bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to assess Ecological status and Recovery"
Online: http://www.wiser.eu/results/deliverables/index.php [date: 2014/04/17]
© 2014 WISER (Contract No. 226273). All rights reserved.