6. Conclusions

6.     Conclusions

To be finalised in a later stage, based on comments during member state consultation

Initial structure / initial points:

Assessing vulnerability is an extremely complicated process with a multitude of conceptual frameworks that have been proposed, yet little in the way of practical tools that can achieve an ecologically-realistic or comprehensible assessment of use to decision makers. A thematic assessment of European water vulnerability that moves beyond hazard and risk to society and includes ecosystem assessment and ecosystem goods and services will play an important part in setting the knowledge base, framing the policy need, and identifying the appropriate research required to better incorporate them into policy decisions.

Ecological concepts that relate vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity are nowadays gaining more mainstream consideration and coverage in the debate over how to manage freshwater ecosystems and appraise the services they provide to society. The inherent uncertainty in these complex systems of how changes to timing and flow will affect ecosystems requires a risk-based approach to vulnerability and resilience that are increasingly being adopted by climate change policy and adaptation strategies. Such assessments require identification of ecosystem sensitivities / vulnerabilities to significant pressures with the potential for causing negative shift in ecosystem structure. Key vulnerabilities can be identified when a system suffers from shocks such as episodic drought, floods, or pollution events.

European water policy – opportunities to increase freshwater ecosystem resilience

1. A holistic vulnerability assessment should go beyond sectoral considerations to encompass ecosystem services and integrated socio-environmental systems (What’s available / missing?);

- Given the knowledge gaps between ecosystem services and the hydrological cycle, given the diversity of freshwater ESS;

- How can we decrease the Vulnerability? (Where are the opportunities for ecosystems, economy and human-being?)

2. A solid understanding of the spatial-temporal variability of water resources is an essential component in the ecosystem services assessment;

- dynamic and complex pathways by which an ecosystem maintains a functioning state that would be referred to as a reference condition and how this can change;

- natural hydrological variability can be an important determinant of ecosystem resilience, whereby dynamic variation in flow is essential in sustaining the ecosystem

3. Understanding effects / pressures of environmental change (climate change and direct human catchment interventions) on water resources is key for future planning;

- Given governance issues, connecting different scales, different priorities, …

- Where are the win-win effects (in times of budget cuts)? Can we make general recommendations for ‘no regret’ options?

4. Human water demand and the occurrence of extreme hydrological events (floods and droughts) are driving the vulnerability of both ecosystems as well as economic and human social systems.

- Goods and services ecosystems provided are diminished through poor management of water resources;

- The inherent complexity of ecological systems combined with the uncertainty concerning the impacts of climate change requires a risk-based approach to vulnerability

Repeat link to other assessments (e.g. on Water Quality and Resource Efficiency).

Repeat how this links to the Blueprint, this report on water resources / water quantity

- Link to relevant policy (mainly WFD, Floods Directive and COM WSD)

- Others are implicitly included in link to other assessments

Climate Change: White Paper on Adaptation

Land use change: incl. CAP reform

Knowledge and Research: 7th EAP, Horizon 2020


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