RIVFUNCTION - Integrating ecosystem function into river quality assessment and management
The project aimed to elaborate a novel methodology for assessing the ecological status of European rivers in functional terms. It was achieved by determining the performance of a key ecosystem-level process (litter decomposition). Field experiments on the effects of excessive nutrient loading (eutrophication) and modification of riparian vegetation were carried out at 60 paired sites in ten ecoregions defined in the EU Water Framework Directive. They were complemented by experiments aiming at a mechanistic understanding of process alterations and a literature survey to synthesise available information on river functioning. A river quality assessment tool was built on this broad synthesis. Its developmental steps included the identification of a set of indicators and their critical thresholds, and the definition of the technical specifications of standardised procedures. Results were compared with those of standard biological assessment schemes. The tool was elaborated by a mixed consortium of scientists and end-user representatives. It was disseminated to the scientific community, water and environmental agencies, potential stakeholders, and interested parties.