Preparing for the European Water Framework Directive — making the links between habitat and aquatic biota



  • 1.The European Commission published the Directive ‘Establishing a Framework for Community Action in the Field of Water Policy’ (Water Framework Directive) in December 2000. The Directive recognizes for the first time the importance of aquatic biota in assessing the quality of European fresh and marine waters.
  • 2.Specific objectives of the Directive are to prevent further deterioration and protect and enhance the status of aquatic ecosystems.
  • 3.The Directive is unique in setting ecological targets (‘high and good ecological status’) for surface waters and, in doing so, the Commission has recognized the need for an integrated approach to managing three of the components of aquatic habitats: water quality, water quantity and physical structure.
  • 4.A series of ‘tasks’ required by the Directive aims to produce River Basin Management Plans, detailing Programmes of Measures to ensure that all rivers achieve at least ‘good ecological status’ by 2015.
  • 5.The River InVertebrate Prediction And Classification System (RIVPACS) influenced the drafting of the Directive, with the concept of a reference state and the selection of river typology variables. RIVPACS provides a more ecologically robust link between habitat variables and biological elements than some of the systems now enshrined in the Directive.
  • 6.The real challenge posed by the Directive for ecologists and river managers alike will be to integrate the scientific studies on separate habitat components, such as flow, and single taxonomic groups such as salmonid fish, into a holistic view of the ecological status of river basins.

Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.