5 Conclusions and Outlook

Floodplain conservation and restoration is necessary for achieving good ecological status of the Water Framework Directive and good conservation status of species and habitats that depend on water of the Habitats and Birds Directives. Floodplains are widely recognised as an important part of the river system, and environmental improvements in floodplain are likely necessary to improve the ecological status of rivers and conservation status of species and habitats found in the unique floodplain environment.


The path to improving the environmental condition of floodplains has been established through European policies. Specifically, the link between the Floods and Water Framework Directives is essential because it establishes the need to consider other ways of providing flood protection than traditional structural measures. Strengthening the link between River Basin, Flood Risk and Natura 2000 management plans could support achieving good conservation status for species and habitats that depend on water. Often the same measures could fulfil achieving objectives for all directives.


Exactly how much restoration is planned or needed is not clear at present partly because this cannot be extracted from River Basin or Flood Risk Management plans, and planning across the three directives does not take place. Ecosystem based management could provide a unifying concept for developing a shared approach among the Water Framework, Floods, Habitats and Birds Directives. Such an approach would also support development of a more coherent knowledgebase.


At the same time it is clear that implementation of restoration projects is complex, and balancing the many trade-offs are likely to be needed. It may be helpful to support the flood risk, river basin and protected sites management plan process with a more holistic ecosystem based analysis to support the development of long term strategies towards achieving environmental objectives.


Today, the knowledgebase linked to understanding both the floodplain conditions and improvements achieved over time is still very limited; more is needed to develop a European overview. An actual assessment of floodplain condition that also enables tracking changes over time is still needed in order to approach assessment towards the 15% restoration target. Also more knowledge is needed on the link between restoring floodplains and achieving policy objectives. Today, the knowledge base is very fragmented. While the Water Framework Directive has been instrumental in establishing the importance of hydromorphological status for achieving good ecological status in rivers, many different methods and assessment approaches are in use, challenging a consistent European overview.


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