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LIFE Trivers: to know, protect and restore temporary rivers in Europe

To study temporary rivers’ hydrology and ecology, to create new tools to improve their management and to facilitate decision making considering the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) are the main objectives of the European project LIFE Trivers.

Temporary rivers are one of the most common aquatic ecosystems in Mediterranean countries. Image: Freshwater Ecology and Management (FEM) / UBThe project is an initiative fostered by a consortium led by Professor Narcís Prat, from the Department of Ecology at the University of Barcelona (UB). The Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC), the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) and the Júcar Hydrographic Confederation (CHJ) also participate in the project. Tools will be developed considering the results obtained by researchers involved in the project MIRAGE —which is part of the Seventh European Framework Programme in order to provide water managers and citizens with scientific knowledge.

There is an increasing demand for water resources around the world; Europe is not an exemption. However, an increase and wider prevalence of water scarcity and stress has been observed for the last years. This situation could get worse due to the effects that climate change has on water resources. The European Environment Agency (EEA) highlights worrying trends; it is expected that this situation will affect about half of European river basins by 2030.

Objective: to study and protect temporary rivers in Europe

Water scarcity and drought have high environmental costs in Europe and direct effects on several economic sectors which use water resources (agriculture, industry, energy, transport, tourism, etc.). In this context, inadequate water resource policies make water economy more expensive because the process of extracting, transporting and treating water involves high energetic and economic costs.

Temporary rivers —one of the most common aquatic ecosystems— are natural habitats of high ecological interest. It is expected that the proportion of temporary streams and rivers will increase due to the effects of the global change. Temporary rivers have a special hydrologic regime which is quite different from the one of permanent rivers and affects water quality indicators used to study them. Therefore, specific methodologies must be developed to study temporary streams and rivers.

To be exact, in the Mediterranean area, the regime of rivers can vary due to weather effects, with rotating wet and dry periods that produce irregular water flows. The assessment of the ecological status of temporary rivers is one of the scientific challenges that must be faced in order to improve water resource management.

The programme LIFE Trivers (Implementing the Water framework directive for temporary rivers: tools for the assessment of their ecological status) will be developed between 2014 and 2019. It will turn the results got on the project MIRAGE (Mediterranean Intermittent River Management) into a tool to work on the sustainable management of Mediterranean rivers. Professor Narcís Prat (UB) and Professor Francesc Gallart (IDAEA-CSIC) coordinate LIFE Trivers, together with Antoni Munné (ACA) and Teodoro Estrela (CHJ), both members of the steering committee who are responsible for the WFD implementation in Catalan basins and Júcar basin, respectively.