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Transitional and coastal waters ecological status assessment: Advances and challenges resulting from implementing the European Water Framework Directive

AutorBorja, Ángel; Elliott, Michael S.; Henriksen, Peter; Marbà, Núria
Palabras claveBiological quality elements
Methods of quality assessment
Water framework directive
Response to human pressures
Fecha de publicación2013
EditorKluwer Academic Publishers
CitaciónHydrobiologia 704(1): 213-229 (2013)
ResumenThe derivation, performance, sensitivity and inherent uncertainty of ecological quality indicators have become major topics in developing tools for the management of marine, transitional and coastal waters. In reviewing the advances in these waters, related to an ecological status assessment, we show the future challenges to be addressed within the European Water Framework Directive (WFD). Using new analyses carried out under the research project 'Water Bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to Assess Ecological status and Recovery', we provide a complete set of assessments for the biological quality elements (BQEs) (phytoplankton, macroalgae-seagrasses, macroinvertebrates and fish) to be assessed, as well as the validation of existing indicators and multimetric indices and, in some cases, the development of new assessment indices. We show that these indices respond differently to different human pressures and they each have challenges in defining reference conditions against which future changes are judged. In investigating good ecological potential, as the response to heavily modified water bodies, we show that there are flaws in the Directive, not least in its definitions. Our analyses have also focussed on uncertainty in using the indices and we emphasise the problems of defining ecological class boundaries based on indices which themselves may be combined indices (multimetrics). The analysis shows that some of those multimetrics are redundant and/or are inter-correlated and thus may reduce the sensitivity in defining ecological class boundaries. If this is related to the drivers-pressures-state change-impacts-response approach then there are lessons for management measures aimed at achieving good ecological status and even the potential for legal challenges to decisions based on uncertain indices under the WFD. Hence, we conclude the continued need for advances in assessing pressures and gradients, and defining reference conditions for state change, index development, impact assessment and the validation of indices for each BQE. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Identificadoresdoi: 10.1007/s10750-012-1276-9
issn: 0018-8158
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