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Environmental flows as an indicator of achieving GES/GEP, and how this concept relates to the provision of and sustainability of ecological services, is a particular area where policy increasingly has to acknowledge the complexity of natural systems and inadequacy of exiting legislation at defining the concept. Understanding and accounting for the direct and indirect benefits provided by Europe’s freshwater ecosystems are increasingly becoming understood as essential elements in ensuring holistic policy decisions and identifying policy trade-offs such as between the WFD and the Floods Directive (EC 2007c). Identifying the vulnerability and susceptibility of freshwater ecosystem receptors to anthropogenic and climate pressures is critical in assessing such water management policy trade-offs. Ensuring sustainable management of European waters, reducing the vulnerability of society to water related hazards, and achieving GES/GEP requires a greater understanding of how mankind is connected to these complex systems and planning for an uncertain future. Incorporating the connectivity that exists between society and ecosystems with the uncertainty surrounding climate change, will require policy decisions that incorporate a greater role for risk and vulnerability assessment in planning activities.

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