INHABIT project

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Home The INHABIT project Innovative aspects of the project

Innovative aspects of the project

In general terms, the significance of hydro-morphology in supporting the interpretation of biological communities and in setting RBMPs for European aquatic ecosystems is now recognized and authoritatively stated by the WFD. In particular, as far as rivers are concerned, together with morphological conditions and river continuity, the WFD indicates the hydrological regime - and thus the derived habitat descriptors identified at the site scale - as one of the key supporting elements when assessing ecological status and interpreting biological patterns. Additionally, while flow-related aspects are indisputably relevant in all river systems, they are expected to be crucial in the Mediterranean area, because of the strong seasonality observed there i.e. from high floods to dry channels at the same site. The importance of local hydraulic conditions in influencing the freshwater biotic community is historically acknowledged by the scientific community. Many authors, at different spatial scales and in varying degrees of detail, have demonstrated the link between e.g. water velocity, turbulence, hydraulic stress, shear stress and invertebrate taxa. In spite of this, most current methods based on invertebrates or other BQEs for the assessment of ecological quality do not take such relationships into account, even though they can have a strong impact on structuring communities and may exert a great influence on the quality evaluation of water bodies. In general terms, the shift of a river site towards an increasingly lentic character generally leads to the disappearance of sensitive taxonomic groups or species, which are more frequently associated with lotic conditions. Not surprisingly, the responsiveness of most of frequently-used quality metrics to the lentic-lotic character of river sites was evidently demonstrated across Europe. Therefore, the application of tools able to quantify habitat conditions in terms of e.g. lentic-lotic character of rivers are important for improving understanding of biological metric variability. Usually, an increase in lentic conditions is associated with a decrease in quality metrics value, thus possibly causing an underestimation of ecological quality. In fact, if the presence of lentic habitat conditions is due to natural phenomena, the obtained ecological status classification can be partly unsubstantiated if methods employed are not adequately corrected. From the experience gained recently in Europe, it is urgent to remark that current monitoring methods should be improved and take into account habitat and local hydro-morphological conditions found at sites. Therefore, it is crucial, especially in the Mediterranean area, that all habitat components (including the lentic-lotic character of a river site), are assessed and considered when classifying, planning and checking RBMP measures.
In the present project, such hydro-morphological, habitat-related aspects will be transferred to the real world of RBMPs, quantifying their influence on quality estimations and on possible ineffectiveness of the measures planned for the on-going management plan, for test water body types across Italy.

As far as lakes are concerned, the high number of lake types present in Italy, identify a problem on the assessment and on quality element valuation both for biological elements and for hydro-morphological features. Besides, a lot of lakes belongs to the Heavily Modified Water Bodies category, often created by barraged rivers, for the need to satisfy simultaneously different uses of water resource e.g. hydropower, agricultural, drinking water supply.  The evaluation of lakes quality must consider lake type, water uses, potential impacts of such uses and hydro-morphological pressures, all factors affecting BQEs and the achievement of good ecological status by 2015. The most important way to realize this aim is to define a correct management plan, which considers the peculiarity of each lake type, and more in general, to define a RBMP that considers the river-lake ecosystem on the whole. The existing method to assessment the biological and hydro-morphological quality elements in lakes are at different stages of development. In this project, methods avilable in Italy for all BQEs will be brought to the same standardization level and compared with European method. Additionally, the possibility to apply the Lake Habitat Survey, a hydro-morphological method born for UK lakes, will be evaluated for South European lakes, so that the important delay Italy arranged on this aspect can be overpassed.
In more general terms, an innovative aspect of the project is that fluvial and lacustrine ecosystems will be jointly investigated and considered to update RBMPs. Their character, as far as WFD relevant aspectes are concerned, will be quantified and quality evaluation driven based on the most updated techniques available, which were validated for the South European area. Finally, joined activities will be performed, which will enable Authorities and Stakeholders to improve RBMPs and, above all, increase the possibility to restore by 2015 water bodies presently not classified in good ecological status, based on innovative habitat-based measures.