MARS Deliverables

Read and download the results from MARS. Also have a look at the MARS fact sheets, which are are designed as “quick feeds” written in a non-technical language of brief and concise style, not exceeding two pages in length.


Milestone 17 Task 8.1: MARS Communication and dissemination strategy

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The main objective of MARS communication and dissemination is to provide clear answers to major stakeholders on how to manage water bodies exposed to multiple pressures. To close the gap between science and policy and avoid information overload, the MARS dissemination strategy aims to combine target groups, suitable products and arenas for dialogue / communication. The key stakeholders are river basin managers (particularly in the 16 case study catchments), National Environment Agencies responsible for WFD implementation, WFD-CIS groups and MAES freshwater group, DG Environment and EEA.

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Deliverable D1.1: Overview of external projects relevant to MARS and detailed plans on how to cooperate with them; detailed communication strategy; production and publication of the project website

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Deliverable D1.1 summary

The implementation of successful external communication is a key to achieving the main objectives of the MARS project. In particular, the cooperation with related EU funded research projects plays a central role. In the first project months, a list of external projects relevant to MARS was prepared, aiming at maintaining this list over the full project duration.

Amongst these external activities we identified three partner projects of specific importance to MARS, as their aims particularly match with the objectives of our project: GLOBAQUA, SOLUTIONS and OpenNESS. The contact with these projects was established at an early stage, inviting the coordinators to the MARS kick-off workshop in February 2014. Extensive consultations with each project coordinator resulted in detailed plans for cooperation. These plans are descripted in this report.

Another objective of the MARS communication and dissemination is to provide clear answers to major stakeholders on how to manage water bodies exposed to multiple pressures. To close the gap between science and policy, and to avoid information overload, the MARS dissemination strategy aims to combine target groups, suitable products and arenas for dialogue and communication. The key stakeholders are river basin managers (particularly in the 16 case study catchments), national environmental agencies responsible for WFD implementation, WFD-CIS groups and MAES freshwater group, DG Environment and EEA.

As an external information channel for a broader audience a project website was set up, together with state-of-the-art communication tools and intranet facilities for storing all project-relevant files. A popular science blog, reaching up to 3,000 readers per month, with weekly posts was successfully taken over from the BioFresh project, and is now operated by the project. Additionally, new and social media channels are fed to reach the public.

Finally, the draft for a general information platform for the freshwater scientific community is presented. In this contribution we present a future outlook on establishing a ‘global network for freshwater scientists’, targeting at the sustainable onward use of already developed tools and data collections. The principal objective is to merge and synthesise the available information generated by various EU funded projects related to freshwater research.


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Deliverable 2.1 - Four manuscripts on the multiple stressor framework:

Part 1: Review of multiple stressors and their effects on European surface waters
Part 2: Cook-book for ecosystem service assessment and valuation in European water resource management
Part 3: Framework to select indicators of multi-stressor effects for European river basin management
Part 4: Report on the MARS scenarios of future changes in drivers and pressures with respect to Europe’s water resources

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Deliverable D2.1 summary

This deliverable is composed of four chapters describing products of the MARS project, which will contribute to harmonize the outcome of the experiments (WP3), of the catchment modelling (WP4) and of the large-scale data analysis (WP5). All these work areas address the effects of multiple stressors on water resources and aquatic ecosystems, but are using different approaches, targeting different stressor combinations and response variables. To ensure that the outcome is suited for a meta-analysis across approaches, scales, stressors and variables several underlying procedures were harmonized; that’s what this deliverable is about.

Part 1: Review of multiple stressors and their effects on European surface waters
Part 1 reviews the effects of multiple stressors on rivers, lakes, groundwaters and coastal ecosystems, based on a thorough literature analysis. Despite the existence of a huge conceptual knowledge base in aquatic ecology, only few studies provide quantitative evidence on multiple stress effects. Two-stressor combinations were addressed most frequently. Over all biological groups analyzed, the strength of the pressure-response relationships increased with increasing number of stressors considered in lakes and rivers, but the response remained unclear in transitional and coastal waters. Biological groups responded generally very differently to increasing complexity of stress.

Part 2: Cook-book for ecosystem service assessment and valuation in European water resource management
Part 2 first addresses current approaches towards ecosystem service assessment and valuation and provides an overview of ecosystem services evaluated in the MARS experiments, catchment models and large-scale data analysis. Finally, a procedure towards ecosystem service assessment to be applied in MARS is described, which comprises four steps: Scoping of the analysis, development of the integrated assessment framework, biophysical quantification of ecosystem services, and economic valuation of ecosystem services. The procedure is exemplified for a number of case study catchments.

Part 3: Framework to select indicators of multi-stressor effects for European river basin management
Part 3 describes a set of “benchmark indicators”, i.e. response variable to be addressed in the experiments, catchment modelling and large-scale data analysis. These indicators allow for a streamlined analysis of multi-stressor effects across the different spatial scales and environmental conditions targeted in MARS. The benchmark indicators mainly comprise simple metrics and indices of abiotic and biotic ecosystem properties, covering physico-chemical, hydrological and riparian features of the water body and selected attributes of its biological community. The indicators are known to respond to anthropogenic pressure. They are applicable in various geographical contexts and to different water categories and types of water bodies.

Part 4: Report on the MARS scenarios of future changes in drivers and pressures with respect to Europe’s water resources
Part 4 describes storylines outlining future changes regarding (i) main drivers in the economy, (ii) economic growth, (iii) policies regarding the environment, and (iv) public concern about the environment and protection of ecosystem services. This contribution establishes the baseline for simulating future scenarios at both basin and European scale. Various future climatic and socio- economic scenarios were chosen to define three storylines at the European level. Several projects and modeling tools were reviewed with the aim of identifying quantitative data fitting the selected storylines. Suitable data were collated and can now be used by the subsequent MARS work packages to drive the simulations of the three storylines.


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Deliverable 3.1: Manuscripts on time series and temperature effects

Part 1: D3.1-1: Manuscripts on time series analysis in the north temperate region
Part 2: D3.1-2: Manuscripts on temperature effects on shallow lakes based on existing experimental data

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D3.1 summary

Part 1

This deliverable consists two manuscripts (MS) of lake time-series analysis in north-temperate region of Europe.

1st MS ‘Is fish able to regulate filamentous blue-green dominated phytoplankton?’ submitted to ‘Hydrobiologia’, analyzes >40-year data on biota, fish catches, hydrochemistry, hydrology, and meteorological parameters in Lake Võrtsjärv, a large and shallow eutrophic lake in Estonia. The lake has intensive commercial fisheries with well documented catches for all commercial fish species. The impact of commercial fisheries on the ecological status of lakes has been poorly studied and in most cases fish as a biological quality element is omitted in water bodies with commercial fisheries. Based on our previous knowledge we assumed that the effect of different fisheries management strategies in Võrtsjärv on water quality is negligible due to the weakly operating grazing food chain. Present study showed, however, that predatory fish (pikeperch) could have a cascading impact down the food web in this lake that has to be considered in fisheries management. As we showed, the recently introduced legal requirement to sort and report on small fish in fishery statistics has caused extensive back-release of small fish by fishermen and was one of the likely reasons why the amount of small fish, including small bream, has sharply increased in the lake. The fishery management measures that could increase small plankti- and benthivorous fish biomass have to be avoided as having a cascading negative effect on the ecosystem health of Lake Võrtsjärv.

2nd MS ‘Climate change, cyanobacteria blooms and ecological status of lakes: a Bayesian network approach’ accepted for publication in ‘Ecological Modelling’ addresses eutrophication and harmful cyanobacterial blooms as major challenges for management of aquatic ecosystems, which are expected to be reinforced by climate change. A Bayesian network (BN) modelling approach was applied to assess the impact of future scenarios of climate change and land-use management to ecological status incorporating cyanobacteria biomass as one of the indicators. The BN was able to model effects of climate change and management on ecological status of case study Lake Vansjø in Norway, by combining scenarios, process-based model output, monitoring data and the national lake assessment system. The results showed that the benefits of better land-use management were partly counteracted by future warming under these scenarios. BN demonstrated the importance of including more biological indicators in the modelling of lake status. E.g. the inclusion of cyanobacteria biomass allowed better predict the ecological status compared to assessment by phytoplankton biomass alone. Thus, the BN approach can be a useful supplement to process-based models for water resource management.

Part 2

The balance between gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER) determines the metabolic status of lakes. As an integrative quantity, the metabolic status is an important indicator of lake function and can have a decisive influence on the role of lakes in regional and global matter cycling. Lake metabolism is influenced by environmental conditions such as light, mixing depth, nutrients and temperature – drivers predicted to be affected by climate change.

This delivery include result from two comprehensive experimental studied conducted to improve our understanding of these driving factors on the metabolic status of shallow lakes and their role in the carbon cycle. In both studies the focus is on the effects of nutrients at contrasting climate conditions. One of the studies is published in Global Change Biology (IF 8.02) in December 2015 and the other is under review after revision in the same journal.

Paper 1 (under review). This study is a pan-European space-for-time mesocosm experiment running from May until November 2011 (run as part of the REFRESH project, finished during the MASRS project) and involved six lakes, covering a temperature gradient from Sweden to Greece. The experiment comprised two nutrient levels (mesotrophic or eutrophic) crossed with two water levels (1 and 2 m) to simulate different light regimes and mixing depths. In situ GPP and ER were estimated using the O2 free-water method. GPP and ER were significantly higher in the eutrophic mesocosms than in mesotrophic mesocosms, whereas the shallow mesocosms had significantly higher volumetric metabolic rates but lower area-based metabolic rates than the deep mesocosms. GPP and ER increased exponentially with temperature. Temperature gains of ~0.53 eV for GPP and ~0.65 eV for ER were comparable with those predicted by metabolic theory. All systems switched from autotrophy to heterotrophy over the investigated temperature range. The threshold temperature for the switch in metabolic status was, however, lower under mesotrophic (~16 °C) than eutrophic conditions (~22 °C). Contrary to expectations, no significant interactions between temperature, nutrients and depth were observed for GPP and ER. Overall, we quantified the differential temperature sensitivity of GPP and ER and found that trophic state is crucial for how much warming a system can tolerate before it switches from net auto- to net heterotrophy. Paper 2 published in December 2015). This study focuses on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, based on the fact that fresh waters make a disproportionately large contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with shallow lakes being particular hotspots. How GHG fluxes from shallow lakes are altered by climate change may have profound implications for the global carbon cycle. Empirical evidence for the temperature dependence of the processes controlling GHG production in natural systems is largely based on the correlation between seasonal temperature variation and seasonal change in GHG fluxes. However, ecosystem-level GHG fluxes could be influenced by factors, which whilst varying seasonally with temperature are actually either indirectly related (e.g. primary producer biomass) or largely unrelated to temperature, for instance nutrient loading. As part of the Danish Climate change effect project (CRES) and MARS a one year study of GHG emission was conducted in the longest running shallow-lake mesocosm system. This system consists of twenty-four fully mixed, outdoor, flow- through mesocosms (diameter 1.9 m, water depth 1 m, retention time ~2.5 months). The one year GHG study run in 2013 demonstrated that nutrient concentrations override temperature as a control of both the total and individual GHG flux. Furthermore, testing for temperature treatment effects at low and high nutrient levels separately showed only one, rather weak, positive effect of temperature (CH4 flux at high nutrients). In contrast, at low nutrients, the CO2 efflux was lower in the elevated temperature treatments, with no significant effect on CH4 or N2O fluxes. Further analysis identified possible indirect effects of temperature treatment. For example, at low nutrient levels increased macrophyte abundance was associated with significantly reduced fluxes of both CH4 and CO2 for both total annual flux and monthly observation data. As macrophyte abundance was positively related to temperature treatment, this suggests the possibility of indirect temperature effects, via macrophyte abundance, on CH4 and CO2 flux. These findings indicate that fluxes of GHGs from shallow lakes may be controlled more by factors indirectly related to temperature, in this case nutrient concentration and the abundance of primary producers. Thus, at ecosystem scale response to climate change may not follow predictions based on the temperature dependence of metabolic processes.

These studies revealed strong variation in GPP, ER and GHG depending on nutrient level, trophic structure and climate to various extent and clearly also show that metabolic metrics can be very useful integrating indicators of multi-stressor effects in shallow lake ecosystems.


Deliverable D4.1 case study synthesis

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Deliverable D4.1 is a synthesis report of the 16 regional case studies being undertaken in WP4 (Multi-stressors at the river basin scale. The report is composed of 3 parts.

Part 1: Task 4.2 - Southern Basins region
Part 1 reports the background to, and results and conclusions from Task 4.2 on four case studies from the Southern Basins region. The four Southern Basins included in this report are: Lower Danbe (Romania); Lake Beyşehir (Turkey), Pinios (Greece), Sorraia (Portugal). In fact, the Southern group includes also the Nervión case study (Spain), which however will be reported in another Deliverable of MARS due to the special focus of the work on estuaries. The work described in this report was undertaken between February 2013 and July 2016.

Part 2: Task 4.3 - Central Basins region
Part 2 reports the background to, and results and conclusions from Task 4.3 on the 6 case studies from the Central Basins region. The six Central Basins are: the Drava (Austria); Elbe, Haval and Saale (Germany), Odense (Denmark); Thames (United Kingdom); Regge and Dinkel (Nederland); and, the Ruhr (Germany). The work described in this report was undertaken between February 2013 and July 2016.

Part 3: Task 4.4 - Northern Basins region
Part 3 reports the background to, and results and conclusions from Task 4.4 on the 6 case studies from the Northern Basins region. The Northern Basins are: the Otra and the Vansjø-Hobøl Norway), the Kokemäenjoki river basin, the Lepsämänjoki and Lake Pääjärvi catchments (Finland), lake Võrtsjärv (Estonia) and the Welsh basins (Wales). The work described in this report was undertaken between February 2013 and July 2016.


Deliverable 5C: Report on legacy and tipping points in large rivers

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D5.C summary

Large rivers have always been in the focus of human attention. Ancient and modern civilisations have arisen, prospered and dwindled on their banks, leaving us with the myths and legends that their waters provoked. Large rivers are of major economic relevance as providers of substantial services like, most notably drinking water, food, energy and transport. Large rivers have been altered since centuries and have undergone dramatic human-induced changes. Thus, large rivers are among the most stressed ecosystems worldwide.

In large rivers the stability as well as the disturbance amplitude trigger integral ecosystem functions and determine where and when which habitats are available within a temporal context. Thus, the basis for a sufficient understanding on the effects of stressors and their role in faunal changes strongly depends on the understanding of the ecosystem processes and their interlinkages which determine ecosystem functioning. This deliverable addresses the historical development of stressors in large European rivers and their legacy on the faunal elements, which have been typical in those rivers. Nowadays rare potamontypic Plecoptera, aquatic insects, have been chosen to act as umbrella-species reflecting ecosystem health.

The analyses showed a common development of the major stressors damming, navigation and neozoa in large rivers during the second half of the 20th century, which can be observed for other economical and societal factors too. The major regulation with corresponding channelization effects have been already finished at the beginning of the 20th century. However, those channelization effects have been emphasised by measures related to damming and to the improvement of large river navigability.

We found a considerable shrink in the distribution area of selected indicator species, namely of the aquatic insect order Plecoptera, the stoneflies. The analyses identified few refugia in Central France (Loire, Allier), Austria/Hungary (Raba, Lafnitz) and Hungary/Romania (Tisza) where a combination of several species still can be found after 1990. These systems show some communalities like natural discharge and sediment regimes. Even though neozoans have invaded them, unbroken dynamic processes seem to lessen their negative effect on indigenous faunas. Losses are identified in many river systems, especially in Scandinavia and Spain. Even though the analyses are related to uncertainties due to data gaps, the general trend seems plausible.

Especially invasive species in consequence of inland navigation tremendously changed the faunal composition of aquatic insect assemblages. Biological reference communities are lost for most large rivers since long times and cannot be described empirically. To establish ecological integer ecosystems as demanded by the Water Framework Directive, the few river systems, which still sustain typical large river species, must serve as reference to restore hydrologically and sedimentologically dynamic habitats.


Deliverable 8.4 fact sheets

Deliverable 8.4 fact sheets

Version 2, updated March 2016

The MARS project puts emphasis on practical outputs and the dissemination of scientific findings, allowing to establish strong linkages between the scientists and the practitioners 'on the ground'. One particular aim of the MARS communication and dissemination strategy is to encourage the scholars to leave their ‘ivory tower’ and to propagate their knowledge in a digestible format. The fact sheets are designed as “quick feeds” for a diverse target-audience, including academics, administrators, practitioners and policy-makers. Each fact sheet is written in a non-technical language of brief and concise style, not exceeding two pages in length.

  • Fact sheet #01: Multiple stresses and freshwater ecosystem service provision: the MARS ‘cookbook’ methodology
  • Fact sheet #02: Freshwater Information Platform – www.freshwaterplatfrom.eu
  • Fact sheet #03: MARS scenarios and storylines
  • Fact sheet #04: Multiple stresses on Europe’s freshwaters: emerging challenges for science, policy and management
  • Fact sheet #05: Freshwaterblog: A tool for wide range dissemination
  • Fact sheet #06: HyTEC: investigating the effects of pulse releases of water from hydropower on aquatic life
  • Fact sheet #07: Provisioning Freshwater Ecosystem Services
  • Fact sheet #08: Regulating and Maintaining Freshwater Ecosystem Services
  • Fact sheet #09: Cultural Freshwater Ecosystem Services
  • Fact sheet #10: Storylines: writing the future for effective water management – Fragmented World
  • Fact sheet #11: Storylines: writing the future for effective water management – Consensus World
  • Fact sheet #12: Storylines: writing the future for effective water management – Techno World

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Deliverable D8.4 summary

Europe's surface waters are affected by multiple stressors, ranging from water pollution of urban point and agricultural diffuse sources to habitat alteration by river engineering and maintenance management. Effective multi-stressor mitigation not only requires in-depth knowledge on the causal pathways to convey practical management solutions, but also appropriate dissemination and communication strategies to impart the existing knowledge, to generate understanding and to distribute relevant evidence.

Multi-stressor settings and their effects on the ecosystem are complex and often complicated to grasp, even for the experts familiar with this topic. When, for instance, multiple stressors act simultaneously, interactions often occur that either exacerbate the impact on the ecosystem compared to the sum of the single stressor effects (so-called "synergistic effects"), or weaken the impact on the ecosystem (so-called “antagonistic effects”). Insights into these interactions are of paramount importance to water managers as the choice of appropriate management strategies depends on this knowledge.

The MARS project thus puts emphasis on practical outputs and the dissemination of scientific findings, allowing to establish strong linkages between the scientists and the practitioners 'on the ground'. One particular aim of the MARS communication and dissemination strategy is to encourage the scholars to leave their ‘ivory tower’ and to propagate their knowledge in a digestible format. Especially the freshwater blog run by the project already proved effective in this regard.

The report at hand forms an essential part of the MARS strategy to communicate the project’s key-approaches and -messages generated from the various research strands conducted in MARS. The fact sheets that constitute the core of this report are designed as “quick feeds” for a diverse target-audience, including academics, administrators, practitioners and policy-makers. Each fact sheet is written in a non-technical language of brief and concise style, not exceeding two pages in length. A set of high-resolution illustrations relevant in the particular context accompanies each fact sheet. These illustrations either visualize thematic contents or generate corporate design for specific MARS products.

The fact sheets are placed at a central position on the MARS public website (go to fact sheets) to allow for easy internet access. The publication of this deliverable will be featured in a post on the Freshwater Blog. Furthermore, the individual fact sheets will be circulated via email to the MARS consortium and external contacts, including members of the target-audience specified above.

We intend to update this document during the future course of MARS, collating fact sheets and illustrations of all relevant MARS achievements. The following provides a selection of topics that will be addressed in the document’s updates, envisaged for project month 48 (January 2018):

  • Selected MARS experiments and case-study catchments;
  • MARS tools;
  • MARS key deliverables.