Report on harmonization of freshwater biological methods

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Background and purpose of the document

1. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires (Annex V 1.3.6) that standards methods are used for the monitoring of water quality elements: ‘Methods used for the monitoring of type parameters shall conform to the international standards listed below or such other national or international standards which will ensure the provision of data of an equivalent scientific quality and comparability’.

2. In the context of the WFD Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) Intercalibration Working Group (WG), a common issue raised by lake and river experts was the lack of comparability of national biological assessment systems due to different sampling and analytical procedures, and use of different metrics for the assessment of the degree of impact due to the same pressure. This resulted in a strong recommendation from these networks of experts for the harmonisation of these methodologies and the possible identification of common metrics.

3. Thus, in the workshop of the WFD-CIS Intercalibration WG, in March 2003 at the JRC, Ispra, it was decided to initiate a task on the review of the needs for harmonisation of the freshwater biological methods, under the WFD-CIS WG 2A ECOSTAT. The first contacts and presentation of this activity was at the meeting of the WG 2A in October 2003 at the JRC, Ispra.

4. The report from this task will support the Geographic Intercalibration Groups (GIGs) in the intercalibration exercise by providing a concise overview of the available methods to be considered as potential candidates for common metrics. This can be applied for the harmonised assessment of the water bodies belonging to the intercalibration network. Furthermore, it identifies the need for the development of new methods or the further harmonisation and standardisation of existing methods and proposes a procedure to link WFD relevant groups with Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN) working group elaborating biological and ecological assessment methods.

5. The overall objectives of this task are 1) to make an overview and comparison of the national biological methods currently in use in EU countries; 2) to evaluate their applicability in the assessment of the ecological quality of inland surface waters (lakes and rivers) as required by the WFD; 3) to evaluate their suitability for use as common  metrics for the purpose of the intercalibration exercise, and 4) to identify a way of interaction amongst CEN, ECOSTAT WG2A and the WFD Committee allowing for prioritization of WFD relevant methods for standardization.

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