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Closing the implementation gap

In EU Member States, there are increased incentives in considering nature based solutions. Most countries report on using nature based solutions as measures in their Flood Risk Management plans (EC, 2019), and EU Member States are improving river hydromorphology as part of the River Basin Management Plans. Measures aimed at improving longitudinal continuity, river restoration, improvements of riparian areas, removal of hard embankments, improvements of flow regime or nature based solutions are reported. Moreover such solutions have been found to be a cost-efficient means of reducing flood risk while at the same time supporting other ecosystem oriented objectives (EEA, 2017b).


There are, however, also gaps in implementation. The analysis of the first Flood Risk Management Plans showed that almost all countries consider some aspect of climate change, but only 10 EU Member States had serious reflections of climate change impacts (EC, 2019). Many Member States could not factor in the impact of climate change on the magnitude, frequency and location of floods. Generally, historical data were used. They carry the risk of not reflecting future weather conditions or potential changes in the frequency and severity of floods (ECA, 2018). Improving these assessments will be a key effort in the next round of Flood Risk Management Plans. The outlook of altered flood risk due to climate change, further emphasises the importance of establishing Flood Risk Management Plans that consider possible changes to flooding in coming years together with the need for increased water retention.  Investments in restoration projects made through programmes like LIFE + is likely to act as an EU level driver for more river and floodplain restoration building on methods that enable natural water retention.


The need for more holistic planning recognised by the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (EC/42/2001), which requires that plans such as the flood risk, river basin, or protected sites management plans are assessed in regards to their ability to promote over all sustainable development. It is used as a tool to assess cross boarder coherence of river basin management plans in international river basin districts and to secure that planned development indeed is sustainable from the point of view of cross-policy environmental objectives. Often considerations under this Directive lead to altering plans towards more sustainable solutions (EC, 2015).


The more forward looking question of what is actually needed to meet targets across directives, within a catchment and on a decadal timescale, however, remains unanswered. Possibly, this gap could be filled by an ecosystem based management approach where the impact of multiple land use activities is reconciled against environmental objectives. Although the need for river and floodplain restoration is widely acknowledged through the Water Framework, Floods, Habitats and Birds Directives, it is usually not assessed from a holistic river basin management perspective, nor are restoration needs considered at the scale of a catchment or river basin. Restoration measures are in competition with many other uses of the river-floodplain system, and a more holistic analysis could support balancing management priorities. Large river restoration project are costly and time demanding undertakings. Hence it is natural and probably also desirable that they are carried out one project at the time. However, a perspective on restoration needs within a river basin, from a holistic and cross-policy perspective could be very helpful for informing the management and planning process.

Previous comments

  • birkseba (Sebastian Birk) 29 Jul 2019 10:30:54

    As commented before: You talk about "increased incentives in considering nature-based solutions", then you list the different measures to improve river hydromorphology. To me it is unclear how NBS and hymo-measures fit together.

  • birkseba (Sebastian Birk) 29 Jul 2019 10:38:08

    "The outlook of altered flood risk due to climate change, further emphasises": delete comma.

  • birkseba (Sebastian Birk) 29 Jul 2019 10:39:04

    "Investments in restoration projects made through programmes like LIFE + is likely": replace with "... are likely"

  • birkseba (Sebastian Birk) 29 Jul 2019 10:39:44

    "Often considerations under this Directive": write "directive" with lower case.

  • birkseba (Sebastian Birk) 29 Jul 2019 10:40:23

    " Large river restoration project are costly": write "projects"

  • birkseba (Sebastian Birk) 29 Jul 2019 10:40:56

    "However, a perspective on restoration needs within a river basin, from a holistic and cross-policy perspective": include comma after "perspective"

  • erharmar (Markus ERHARD) 08 Aug 2019 17:37:57

    further examples are the ecosystem service assessment requested to be filled by beneficiaries in LIFE (KPI webtool and the ecosystem service guidance document for Green Infrastructure

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