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European project LIFE Trivers: to know, protect and restore temporary rivers in Europe

The project will provide water managers and citizens with tools to improve the diagnosis of the ecological status of temporary rivers.

The project will provide water managers and citizens with tools to improve the diagnosis of the ecological status of temporary rivers.

Temporary rivers are one of the most common aquatic ecosystems in Mediterranean countries.

Temporary rivers are one of the most common aquatic ecosystems in Mediterranean countries.

The project will contribute to preserve aquatic ecosystems effectively and to restore them if necessary.

The project will contribute to preserve aquatic ecosystems effectively and to restore them if necessary.

In the Mediterranean area, the regime of rivers can vary due to weather effects, with rotating wet and dry periods that produce irregular water flows.

In the Mediterranean area, the regime of rivers can vary due to weather effects, with rotating wet and dry periods that produce irregular water flows.

It is expected that the proportion of temporary streams and rivers will increase due to the effects of the global change.

It is expected that the proportion of temporary streams and rivers will increase due to the effects of the global change.

The results of this European project will be published on a website.

The results of this European project will be published on a website.

The project will foster other actions addressed to the general public in order to bring them closer to the ecology of temporary streams.

The project will foster other actions addressed to the general public in order to bring them closer to the ecology of temporary streams.

29/07/2014

Recerca

To study temporary rivers’ hydrology and ecology, to create new tools to improve their management and to facilitate decision making considering the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) are the main objectives of the European project LIFE TRivers, an initiative fostered by a consortium led by Professor Narcís Prat, from the Department of Ecology at the University of Barcelona (UB). The Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC), the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) and the Júcar Hydrographic Confederation (CHJ) also participate in the project. Tools will be developed considering the results obtained by researchers involved in the project MIRAGE —which is part of the Seventh European Framework Programme in order to provide water managers and citizens with scientific knowledge.

There is an increasing demand for water resources around the world; Europe is not an exemption. However, an increase and wider prevalence of water scarcity and stress has been observed for the last years. This situation could get worse due to the effects that climate change has on water resources. The European Environment Agency (EEA) highlights worrying trends; it is expected that this situation will affect about half of European river basins by 2030.


Objective: to study and protect temporary rivers in Europe

Water scarcity and drought have high environmental costs in Europe and direct effects on several economic sectors which use water resources (agriculture, industry, energy, transport, tourism, etc.). In this context, inadequate water resource policies make water economy more expensive because the process of extracting, transporting and treating water involves high energetic and economic costs.

Temporary rivers —one of the most common aquatic ecosystems— are natural habitats of high ecological interest. It is expected that the proportion of temporary streams and rivers will increase due to the effects of the global change. Temporary rivers have a special hydrologic regime which is quite different from the one of permanent rivers and affects water quality indicators used to study them. Therefore, specific methodologies must be developed to study temporary streams and rivers.

To be exact, in the Mediterranean area, the regime of rivers can vary due to weather effects, with rotating wet and dry periods that produce irregular water flows. The assessment of the ecological status of temporary rivers is one of the scientific challenges that must be faced in order to improve water resource management.

The programme LIFE TRivers (Implementing the Water framework directive for temporary rivers: tools for the assessment of their ecological status) will be developed between 2014 and 2019. It will turn the results got on the project MIRAGE (Mediterranean Intermittent River Management) into a tool to work on the sustainable management of Mediterranean rivers. Professor Narcís Prat (UB) and Professor Francesc Gallart (IDAEA-CSIC) coordinate LIFE TRivers, together with Antoni Munné (ACA) and Teodoro Estrela (CHJ), both members of the steering committee who are responsible for the WFD implementation in Catalan basins and Júcar basin, respectively.

 

New elements to improve water management in the Mediterranean basin

Narcís Prat, director of the Research Group Freshwater Ecology and Management (FEM) of UB and leader of the project LIFE TRivers, explains that “the project aims at filling the gap found by water managers of the Mediterranean basin: the lack of tools that allow to determine, first, whether or not it is a temporary river; second, if temporariness is due to natural changes or to human intervention, and third, to perform a correct diagnosis of the ecological status of that river”.

Among other objectives, LIFE TRivers will provide a data base (the software TREHS) that will enable environmental managers to know the distribution and the characteristics of the network of temporary rivers. The software will contribute to determine if rivers’ temporariness is due to natural changes or human intervention, and it will help to design predictive models of the evolution of the river characteristics though time. TREHS will allow managers to select the appropriate dates for sampling and the methods for determining the ecological status that make the results comparative to other river systems.

The project also includes the development of campaigns to collect data (hydrological, physiochemical and biological) to characterise temporary river systems in different basins. LIFE TRivers will also determine effective guidelines and protocols in order to optimize decision making and improve water policies for the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive.


Trehs.net: to know the ecological status of temporary rives on your smartphone

Project’s results will be published on a website and disseminated on conferences, reports and scientific papers. Results will enable researchers and water managers to improve the process by which they select the most adequate measures to preserve or restore the ecological status of rivers. Moreover, it is planned to set up a citizen participation process in which people will be able to collaborate in the definition and selection of the programme of measures that should be applied to these rivers.

In addition, the project will foster other actions addressed to the general public in order to bring them closer to the ecology of temporary streams and to raise public awareness of the importance of protecting and preserving water resources. Dr Maria Rieradevall, researcher from the Department of Ecology and the Biodiversity Research Institute of UB (IRBio) who collaborates in the project, highlights that “LIFE TRivers includes an important element: an application for tablets and smartphones (Trehs.net) that will allow citizens to monitor the hydrological and ecological status of temporary rivers in order to know if the measures taken by managers have been effective to preserve and restore the ecological status of this kind of rivers”.

 
 
 Photographs: Research Group Freshwater Ecology and Management (FEM) of UB
 

 

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