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Urban River Lab: a pioneering lab to improve the management of modified rivers

The Urban River Lab (URL) is a pioneering lab in the field of river ecosystem research in Spain.

The Urban River Lab (URL) is a pioneering lab in the field of river ecosystem research in Spain.

This system has been designed to experimentally approach a wide range of both ecological and applied questions in relation to how freshwater ecosystems respond to inputs from urban point sources.

This system has been designed to experimentally approach a wide range of both ecological and applied questions in relation to how freshwater ecosystems respond to inputs from urban point sources.

04/05/2015

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To improve quality and ecological status of water coming from wastewater treatment plants and to contribute to a sustainable management of water resources are the main objectives of the Urban River Lab (URL), an experimental outdoor lab located at the Montornès wastewater treatment plant.

It is a pioneering lab in the field of river ecosystem research in Spain. The Urban River Lab will contribute to the development of alternative strategies and innovative techniques that will improve the management of modified rivers. Researchers with an outstanding career in studying river auto-purification ability have been involved in the development of the system, coordinated by experts Francesc Sabater, member of the Department of Ecology of the University of Barcelona (UB); Eugènia Martí, member of the Department of Continental Ecology at the Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes (CEAB-CSIC), and Albert Sorolla, from the company Naturalea Conservació SL, supported by the Consortium for the Defence of the Besòs River Basin, the Montornés del Vallès City Council and the project Cleanleach, centred on leachate treatment. 

 

To improve river ecosystem management

The system includes a set of 18 artificial flumes (60 cm width and 12 m length) and 12 mesocosms wetlands. This system has been designed to experimentally approach a wide range of both ecological and applied questions in relation to how freshwater ecosystems respond to inputs from urban point sources. In addition, the system will allow testing how bioengineering structures can influence the transport and the cycling of nutrients. 

Experts will analyse the effects of different natural systems (plants and substrata such as sand, gravel, stones, etc.) on improving the quality of effluent water treated at plants. The objective of the new system, inaugurated last December, is to understand better the role of the different parts of river ecosystem and to analyse the natural mechanisms that can contribute to reduce ecological impacts on receptor river biodiversity.

“The system enables us to deal with certain questions emerged from previous experiences with the final aim of contributing to a better management of rivers considering both water quality and river ecosystem”, affirms Francesc Sabater, coordinator of the project.

The Urban River Lab is part of the project Interfaces: Ecohydrologial Interfaces as Critical Hotspots for Transformations of Ecosystem Exchange Fluxes and Biogeochemical Cycling, a Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) funded by the European Union.

 

 

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