Annex 1 European and Global Policy Context

Achieving the objectives of policies in Table 1, requires that policy commitments are considered across policies. Below it is summarised how achieving objectives of one policy may support achieving those of another.


Global Sustainable Development Goal 6.6 - By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes: Recognises that ecosystem health of floodplains as part of wetland and river ecosystems are an essential element for achieving a sustainable future in a global context, hence also in Europe.


EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC): The overarching objective of the EU Water Framework Directive is to provide a framework for the inland surface waters which prevents further deterioration and protects and enhances the status of aquatic ecosystems and, with regard to their water needs, terrestrial ecosystems and wetlands directly depending on the aquatic ecosystems (WFD, Art 1(a)). Achieving the WFD objective of good ecological status is supported by an increased area of natural, active floodplains due to their enhanced water and nutrient retention capacity. Achieving good ecological status in rivers, among others, requires minimizing hydromorphological and pollution pressures. Diffuse nutrient pollution is reduced where floodplains are more natural. Hydromorphology in rivers is defined by hydrological regime, river continuity, and morphological conditions. These parameters are impacted by structural flood control measures that also disconnect floodplains from their river. The main management tool of the WFD is the development of River Basin Management Plans for River Basin Districts and it is in this context that diffuse pollution and hydromorphological pressures should be addressed (EEA, 2016; EEA, 2018).


EU Biodiversity Strategy, target 2 (COM/2011/244): It is required that ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15 % of degraded ecosystems by 2020. Increasing the area of natural floodplain will explicitly support achieving this target.


EU Floods Directive (2007/60/EC): The key objective of the Floods Directive is to reduce flood risk across Europe, also in the light of climate change. Through emphasis on natural water retention measures, flood risk reduction can support achieving water management and conservation objectives. The main management tool of the Floods Directive is the development of Flood Risk Management Plans for the same River Basin Districts as defined by the Water Framework Directive (EEA, 2016).


EU Habitats and Birds Directives (1992/43/EEC & 2009/147/EC): Floodplains are highly valuable habitats and form an important part of the Natura 2000 Network. Analyses from DE and NL suggest that a considerable share (around 50-60 %) of nationally designated Natura 2000 sites are active floodplains. Several habitats and species listed in the Habitats Directive (Annex I habitat types and Annex II species) are found on active floodplains, as are birds encompassed by the Birds Directive. Increased area of active floodplains is likely to improve conservation status assessments of listed habitats and species (EEA, 2015; EEA, 2016).


EU climate change adaptation strategy and disaster risk reduction (COM/2013/0216): Climate change may increase the risk and vulnerability to floods in disaster prone areas (areas of potential significant flood risk). Floods may cost lives and are the cause of billions of euros of damage and insurance costs each year in the EU. Floodplain restoration is one approach to mitigate extreme flood events. A better understanding of the role of floodplain management can help develop measures to mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather events (EEA, 2016; EEA, 2017a).


Green Infrastructure (GI) — Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital (COM/2013/0249): Green infrastructure is identified as an important step towards protecting natural capital. Natural water retention measures are part of green infrastructure (EEA, 2017b). Consequently, floodplains provide key contributions to Green Infrastructure.


Common Agricultural Policy and the Nitrates Directive

Floodplain restoration can be partially funded as part of the subsidies provided under the Common agricultural Policy for Rural Development Plans, but are not widely used. The Rural Development Plans provide funding of several measures related to floodplain restoration. In the current Rural Development Plans, Member States have used six different measures to subsidize floodplain restoration: M4.4 (non-productive investments, M5 (Prevention or Restoration after a weather event), Measure 7 (basic services) Measure 8.4 and 8.5 (floodplains linked to forests) and M10. In addition Rural Development Plans could finance flood prevention efforts. An analysis of 52 final, approved Rural Development Plans (all national and a selection of regional RDPs) found that to tackle morphological pressures, wetland restoration (33% of RDPs), floodplain management (29% of RDPs), re-meandering (19%  of RDPs), and the removal of embankments and dykes (19% of RDPs) were cited most frequently (Rouillard and Berglund, 2017).


Under the Article 3(2) of the Nitrates Directive, EU MS establish buffer strips along water courses that must respect requirements for land application of fertiliser near water courses. Buffer strips are usually found in floodplains or on riverbanks, but there is no requirement for them to resemble a natural system, although they are established to reduce nutrient inflows to the river. Buffer strips are one of the most widely adopted measures in Europe.


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