Small water bodies are largely ignored by European & UK legislation. However, we want to change this.
A workshop took place, Thursday 14 November 2013, to facilitate more in-depth cooperation for developing and coordinating future research and practical initiatives on the protection and management of small water bodies in Europe.
The workshop was held in Brussels, and organised by the European Environmental Bureau, in co-operation with the European Commission, the Lithuanian Presidency and the Freshwater Habitats Trust.
Although the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is intended to protect all water bodies, small water bodies – small streams, ponds and ditches – remain largely un-monitored by Member States and are little considered in River Basin Management Plans. Small water bodies are a major part of Europe’s freshwater network; they include many of the least damaged freshwaters across the continent, support a large proportion of its freshwater biodiversity, mediate many ecosystem processes, influence the condition of larger water bodies and are often of considerable interest to citizens. Their protection and management is thus relevant for the improved implementation of the WFD as well as of other EU water-related legislation and policies, in particular the Nature Directives and EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.
Since the adoption of the WFD in 2000, there has been a rapid increase in our understanding of the importance of small water bodies, and there is now an urgent need to increase their integration with the WFD process. Both the European Environment Agency report on the state of Europe’s waters and the European Commission’s Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources recognise the importance of preventing their continued degradation.
The purpose of the workshop was to provide a forum to discuss practical ways to better protect and manage small water bodies, and in particular their integration within River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs), and to review current knowledge and gaps. The workshop presentations and discussions formed the basis of best practice guidance to protect and manage small water bodies in Europe. The guidance will seek to provide practical, cost-effective options for monitoring and managing small water bodies, managing the ecosystem services they deliver, improving links between water and nature policies and integrating small water bodies into River Basin Management Plans.
There are already a number of partnerships specifically working towards better management and protection of small water bodies . However, bearing in mind the biological links between freshwater habitat types, the current emphasis on landscape scale and integrated catchment management, and limited resources, there seems to be a need for more extensive coordination between stakeholders involved in the protection and management of small water bodies. The workshop also facilitated more in-depth cooperation for developing and coordinating future research and practical initiatives on the protection and management of small water bodies in Europe.