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Europe is an urban and increasingly urbanising continent. Roughly three quarters (72.4%) of the total EU28 population lives in cities, towns and suburbs (Eurostat, 2015). Although the speed of urbanisation has slowed down, the share of the urban population continues to grow, and is likely to reach more than 80% by 2050 (European Commission, 2014; EEA, 2015d). This will pose a range of challenges for the natural resources and ecosystems within and close to urban regions, including the rivers, streams and lakes which are part of the landscape of European cities.

In Europe, as in other industrialized parts of the world, the quality of urban rivers and lakes degraded after the 19th century due to the increasing numbers of settlements and industries discharging untreated wastewater. Urban rivers and lakes were also structurally modified to accommodate human uses such as navigation, construction activities and flood protection.

In recent decades, and after the gradual improvement of water quality due to wastewater treatment (this driven in part by the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive) and reduced industrial activities, urban rivers and lakes have become increasingly important in the planning of urban ecology, green infrastructure and green areas in European cities. Especially, river and lake restoration, often as integral parts of city development projects and urban planning, are now offering win–win situations: they improve flood control and ecological functions while offering recreational value and raising the quality of life in urban areas. Furthermore, integrating green and blue spaces in the design of the urban fabric reduces overheating and pollution, thus mitigating the strength and impacts of the urban heat island effect (EEA, 2012b).

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  • Jorge RODRIGUEZ-ROMERO (invited by Peter Kristensen) 31 Aug 2016 16:26:30


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