Project objectives

INHABIT project

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Project objectives

The project aims at integrating information on local hydro-morphological features into practical measures to improve the reliability of implementation of WFD River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) in South Europe. The focus is on rivers and lakes that will be scrutinized in two areas in Italy, covering a wide range of environmental features and water body types. The outcome of the project will serve as a basis for the implementation of Water Framework Directive river basis management plans over larger areas in Italy and, possibly, the whole of Europe. The project has both demonstration and innovation character, because it considers the transfer of recently updated approaches and methods, which are nonetheless not at all part of usual exercise in Italy yet, and the put into practice of new concepts, derived by recent research activity. More specifically, the objectives of the project are:

  • to examine and improve WFD RBMPs covering a number of water body types, which are representative for a relevant part of Italian water courses and lakes, through the introduction of innovative measures accounting for hydro-morphological and habitat information;
  • to quantify in a standard way the natural variability in undisturbed conditions of selected hydro-morphological, habitat and physico-chemical features, which are known to be highly influent on biological communities i.e. WFD Biological Quality Elements (BQEs). Successively, biological attributes for selected BQEs will be assessed accordingly;
  • to quantify such features, that can therefore noticeably affect ecological status classification, in degraded sites as well. These sites will be selected according to the highlights proposed by the ongoing WFD management plans (to be finally presented by December 2009);
  • to put into practice the most updated approaches and methods for the collection of WFD-compliant data, classification of ecological status and technical implementation of management plans in the study catchments and transferred to local Authorities on a larger scale;
  • in particular, the following aspects will be considered to be directly brought into management plans: a) influence of discharge-related habitat features on the evaluation of ecological status of  rivers; b) influence of the level of fluctuation and of the artificial riparian and shore zone on the evaluation of ecological status of lakes; c) interaction between hydro-morphological and habitat features and nutrients concentration (and e.g. removal), as a mean to improve quality of rivers; d) large-scale, trans-catchment nutrient transport and possible consequences for implementation of river basin plans and setting of measures;
  • to evaluate how such aspects can altogether influence ecological status attribution and the overall uncertainty in classification i.e. as deriving from natural variability, errors in measurements, failure in methodological approach, direct influence of hydro-morphology and habitat, will be assessed for  the study catchments;
  • finally, all the above mentioned information will be directly related to the existing management plans, which will be technically updated to include new measures explicitly related to hydro-morphological and habitat condition, so that the good ecological status can be achieved with the support of new, integrative measures.

The project, through this new approach based on hydro-morphological, habitat-mediated information, will contribute to reduce relevant problems in the sector of WFD implementation and ecological status classification such as: i) uncertainty in biological classification, due to habitat variability, ii) strong delay in WFD implementation in large parts of South Europe, especially due to the extreme differences experienced in environmental features among even neighbouring areas, iii) the difficulty in practically implementing other, more traditional measures, whose costs can limit their adoption and iiii) the risk of failing in the achievement of good ecological status by 2015. In more general terms, the project will also lead to a better comprehension of how relevant environmental factors act in determining ecological status and to the execution of conceptually new, integrative programmes of measures, correspondingly. Standard field protocols for deriving hydro-morphological and habitat information will be applied in the project along a broad environmental and climatic gradient i.e. from the Alps to Sardinia. As well, water body types considered will embrace perennial and temporary rivers, natural and artificial lakes. This will allow a global test phase on RBMPs, which involves a wide range of peculiar freswater environments.