The European Water Framework Directive requires member states to restore aquatic habitats to good ecological status (quality) by 2015. Good ecological status is defined as slightly different from high status, which, according to the Directive, means negligible human influence. This poses problems enough for restoration of natural habitats but artificial reservoirs are not excluded from the Directive. They must be restored to good ecological potential. The meaning of good ecological status is linked to that of ‘high’ ecological status, the pristine reference condition for aquatic habitats under the Directive. From the point of view of an ecologist, this is taken to mean the presence of four fundamental characteristics: nutrient parsimony, characteristic biological and physical structure, connectivity within a wider system and adequate size to give resilience of the biological communities to environmental change. These characteristics are strongly interrelated. Ecological potential must bear some relationship to ecological status but since the reference state for ecological quality is near absence of human impact, it is difficult to see how the criteria for ecological status can be applied to a completely man-made entity where the purpose of the dam is deliberately to interfere with the natural characteristics of a river or former natural lake. Reservoirs are disabled lakes, usually lacking the diversity and function provided by a littoral zone. Nonetheless, pragmatic approaches to increasing the biodiversity of reservoirs are reviewed and conclusions drawn as to the likely effectiveness of the legislation.
Water Framework Directive