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WP 7: Classification of the ecological status of remote mountain lakes

Targets     Lead Contractor     Lead Partners    

Task 7.1     Task 7.2     Task 7.3     Task 7.4    


In this workpackage we will establish the ecological and chemical status of remote mountain and arctic lakes in Europe as required by the EU "Water Framework Directive". We will use state of the art multivariate statistical techniques for numerical ecology to define ecoregions and ecotypes and we will define reference conditions and divergence from reference conditions for all lakes, identify the most appropriate parameters for the classification of ecological and chemical status, and propose criteria for monitoring. These criteria will allow the relative status (high, good, and fair) of the lakes to be defined and applied to any mountain lake in Europe.

Task 7.1.: Classification of ecoregions and ecotype definitions

From our database of over 1000 lakes of physical, chemical, biological, meteorological and palaeolimnological data we will assess whether all mountain lakes within Europe can be considered as a single ecotype. We will define their distinctive features and assess the extent to which the ecoregions as currently defined in Europe in the Water Framework Directive are appropriate for this ecotype.

Task 7.2.: Identifying reference conditions and natural variability

Whilst remote mountain lakes in Europe may be thought to be amongst the least disturbed or least polluted natural ecosystems previous research has established that many are affected by atmospheric pollution and recent climate change. To establish reference conditions for these systems we will use a combined approach that will include new and existing palaeolimnological data, historical data (sites for which we have more than 10 years of continuous records) and data from "high status" lakes of the same ecotype. Lakes in this category will be identified using analogue matching techniques. From this exercise we will be able to define reference conditions that take into account natural variability within and between lakes and that will consequently allow the natural variability in biological characteristics to be disentangled from that recently induced by air pollution.

Task 7.3.: Establishing quantitative indicators of ecological status

From our knowledge of the characteristics of reference sites we will devise a series of biological and physico-chemical indicators that can be used to assess the ecological and chemical status of any remote mountain lake in Europe in a fully comparable way. Physico-chemical indices will take into account not only absolute values, but also measures of ecosystem sensitivity. Biological indices will include measures of biodiversity and quality ratios that relate to ecosystem functioning and express the degree of difference between the structure of current biological assemblages and reference conditions. Quantifiable ecological targets and recovery milestones will be defined to inform management and policy decisions.

Task 7.4.: Setting up appropriate monitoring systems

The Water Framework Directive foresees large scale monitoring practices to assess and control the ecological quality of aquatic ecosystems. Mountain lakes, because of their number, remoteness and difficulty of access pose special problems in this regard. However, from our databases and our regionalisation studies described in the previous workpackages we will provide comprehensive guidance criteria for monitoring, including selection of sites, robust and sensitive parameters, protocols, appropriate and cost-effective monitoring frequency, special measures for protected areas, and training workshops.

Lead Contractor

  1. UB-DE - Ecology Department, University of Barcelona, Spain

Lead Partners

  • ECRC-UCL - Environmental Change Research Centre, University College London, UK

  • NIVA - Norwegian Water Research Institute, Oslo, Norway

  • UiB - Department of Zoology, University of Bergen, Norway

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