Ecological indicators of the effects of abstraction and flow regulation; and optimisation of flow releases from water storage reservoirs

This is a Sniffer led project, the project funders were Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Environment Agency and Northern Ireland Environmental Agency, the work was done by APEM. 

Background to research
The UK Technical Advisory Group for the Water Framework Directive is currently undertaking a review of its guidance on classification of water bodies and the environmental standards it established to regulate the abstraction and impoundment of water in rivers. At present there is not a good relationship between the environmental standards for river flows and the biological classification of many water bodies. This is seen in water bodies across all of the classification bands, including those at Poor and Bad status. Additional ecological supporting information is required to improve the certainty of the classification of water bodies that are subject to major and severe hydrological impacts, and to increase the weight of evidence needed to identify where mitigation measures are needed be put in place to improve river flows.
Objectives of research
Two key work requirements have emerged:
1. The identification of simple, field measurable ecological indicators of major and severe hydrological impacts, consistent with Poor and Bad status in rivers and adjacent wetlands, as a result of a) water abstraction and b) flow regulation from water storage reservoirs.
2. A decision support framework to help environmental protection agencies decide how water is best released from water storage reservoirs to optimise ecological benefit (flow optimisation framework).
These are underpinned by working descriptions (conceptual models), which distil existing knowledge and describe the adverse ecological effects on rivers and dependent wetland habitats that result from changes to river flow regimes.


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