Standardisation of river classifications: Framework method for calibrating different biological survey results against ecological quality classifications to be developed for the Water Framework Directive.

The Water Framework Directive defines a framework for monitoring the Ecological Status of surface and ground waters. The Ecological Status of rivers will be determined from a range of taxonomic groups and a variety of methods. Most Member States will have their own assessment procedures but a common European Standard is required.

Through field sampling and desk studies we aim to: 1) cross-calibrate and integrate assessments using different methods and taxonomic groups 2) recommend which procedures to use in which situations 3) define the precision and reliability of each method and 4) assist the EU in defining the boundaries of classes of Ecological Status. A decision support system will be developed for applying the project findings. The research will used to help establish a European standard for assigning the Ecological Status of rivers from multiple sources of ecological data. The project will be developed with close links to EC RTD Project FAME.

The objectives of the proposal will be to answer nine questions concerning the implementation of the Water Framework Directive: (1) which methods or organism groups best indicate the impacts of which stressors? (2) which methods can be used on which spatial scale? (3) which methods/organisms are best suited for early and late warnings of impacts? (4) How are different assessment methods affected by errors? (5) How can ‘signal’ be distinguished from ‘noise’? (6) How can data resulting from different assessment methods be compared and standardised? (7) What elements of stream assessment should be standardised and what must be standardised? (8) What assessment protocols are most cost-effective? (9) How can information from different taxonomic groups and habitat surveys be inter-calibrated into a unified assessment of the Ecological Status of sites?
Further objectives will be to help set class boundaries of Ecological Status and to develop a European standard protocol for assessment procedures.

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