Developing standard approaches for recording and assessing river hydromorphology: the role of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN)



 1. Over the last 20 years the concept of ‘freshwater quality’ has expanded to incorporate a range of physical, chemical, hydromorphological and biological characteristics. In Europe, this process has been given greater impetus by the EC Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the requirement for Member States to assess and monitor a comprehensive suite of freshwater features.

 2. Assessments of river hydromorphology are needed not only for implementing the WFD but also for nature conservation purposes, such as monitoring the condition of Special Areas of Conservation under the EC Habitats Directive and helping in the management and restoration of rivers. At present there are few detailed methods available in Europe for assessing river hydromorphology, and standard approaches are urgently required.

 3. The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) works to promote voluntary technical harmonization in Europe in conjunction with worldwide bodies and its European partners. The production of a CEN standard for assessing the hydromorphological features of rivers began in September 1999 and culminated in the production of EN 14614 in November 2004.

 4. EN 14614 is a ‘guidance standard’ that provides a framework of general principles and sets out which aspects of river hydromorphology should be assessed, how to plan and conduct field surveys, how results should be interpreted and presented, and ways of applying quality assurance procedures.

 5. A second CEN standard on river hydromorphology has recently been published. Using simple scoring systems, this will enable the extent of hydromorphological modification to river channels, banks, riparian zones and floodplains to be recorded and assessed consistently.

 6. CEN standards encourage European collaboration and provide a framework which other countries can use to develop their own assessment methods. However, ways need to be found to streamline the process of standardization and to ensure that published standards influence the work of researchers, environmental regulators and policy makers. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.