Principal Investigator
Sara Antunes

Leader Institution

Research Teams


ReDEFine: A multi-scale and multi-tiered toolbox for assessing ecosystem quality of freshwater reservoirs: bridging the gaps of the water framework directive approach

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) approach evaluates numerous parameters, but ignores ecosystem functioning and subindividual assessments. The latter components provide essential information about the effects of stressors in the ecosystem. Thus, the two approaches are clearly complementary within the existing WFD biomonitoring scheme, allowing the detection of impacts at different time scales and levels of biological integration. Bearing this in mind, this proposal aims to REDEFInE the current bioassessment scheme of freshwater lentic systems, providing an additional approach that integrates the available evidence from complementary measures of ecosystem health. The targets of this project are reservoirs, given the scarcity of empirical data and the lack of a standardized evaluation system for this type of water bodies. are strongly influenced by anthropogenic activities, serving as contaminant and sediment sinks. Thus, methodological improvements for biomonitoring are required as a way to generate valid information for restoration or mitigation plans. To do so, we will compare the information obtained from the current methodologies of WFD and to those provided by this approach (zooplankton diversity, leaf litter decomposition, biochemical analysis, landscape evaluation). Data collection will be performed twice, with a refinement step in between. A final validation tier will perform a comparative analysis of the information gathered in the WFD approach vs the information obtained with the functional/ecotoxicological assessment. Four pilot reservoirs were selected: Miranda and Pocinho (Douro hydrographic basin; an old reservoir with diffuse anthropogenic impacts, the first in international part of Douro river, and the second in the national part), Aguieira (Mondego HB; reservoir included in the ongoing inter-calibration study for the WFD), and Alqueva (Guadiana HB; one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in Península Ibérica). These reservoirs are among the largest reserves of freshwater in Portugal and provide relevant services in surrounding areas. The data generated in this project will allow the validation of the proposed toolbox, and the potential added value provided by the functional and subindividual assessments. This novel bioassessment scheme will allow an almost real-time indication of ecological status avoiding the drawbacks of classical methodologies. This is the greatest advantage and merit of this proposal, which gives a new use to old tools for assessing ecological status and ecosystem health. Such an approach, using complementary methodologies to those implemented by the WFD approach, is envisaged for preliminary assessments, alert systems, or as regular screening tools for periodical surveys in reservoirs. The research team committed to this project has relevant experience in the areas of research proposed, possessing all the necessary skills and know-how required to warrant good perspectives for the success of this project.