Title: Human pressures and ecological status of European rivers
Citation: SCIENTIFIC REPORTS vol. 7 p. 205
Publication Year: 2017
JRC N°: JRC102785
ISSN: 2045-2322
URI: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-00324-3
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-00324-3
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Humans have increased the discharge of pollution from urban and agricultural areas, altered water flow regime, and modified the morphology of rivers, building channels and reservoirs (Meybeck, 2003). All together these actions have resulted in multiple pressures on freshwater ecosystems, causing the loss of natural habitat and biodiversity, and undermining the ecological functioning (Vorosmarty et al., 2010). Yet human well-being and economic activities strongly depend on water resources and healthy aquatic ecosystems (MEA 2005). To protect the water environment, the European Union has adopted since 2000 an ambitious water policy to reduce pressures and achieve a good ecological status for all water bodies (Directive 2000/60/EC). However, understanding and quantifying the relationship between multiple pressures and ecological status of water bodies remains challenging at the continental scale, though crucial to plan effective environmental policies (Hering et al., 2015; Navarro-Ortega et al. 2015). Here, for the first time, we show the relationship between multiple human pressures on rivers and their ecological status at the European scale. We base our analysis on new data on ecological status reported by EU Member States and pressures assessed by pan-European models, including pollution, hydrological and hydromorphological alterations. We estimated that in 32% of EU rivers are in good ecological status, and we found that the presence of natural areas in floodplains is associated with better ecological status, while urbanization and nutrient pollution are important predictors of ecological degradation of rivers. Our scenario analysis suggests that an additional 8% of degraded rivers could meet the policy target of good ecological status by reducing nitrogen pollution and increasing natural areas in floodplains by only 10-20%. This analysis helps understanding how multiple human pressures affect the ecological status of rivers and how and where measures to reduce them should be targeted. More generally, our results strengthen the need of halting urban land take, curbing nitrogen pollution and maintaining and restoring nature along rivers.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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