, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 183-201

REBECCA databases: experiences from compilation and analyses of monitoring data from 5,000 lakes in 20 European countries

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Chemical and biological data from more than 5,000 lakes in 20 European countries have been compiled into databases within the EU project REBECCA. The project’s purpose was to provide scientific support for implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The databases contain the biological elements phytoplankton, macrophytes, macroinvertebrates and fish, together with relevant chemistry data and station information. The common database strategy has enabled project partners to perform analyses of chemical–biological relationships and to describe reference conditions for large geographic regions in Europe. This strategy has obvious benefits compared with single-country analyses: results will be more representative for larger European regions, and the statistical power and precision will be larger. The high number of samples within some regions has also enabled analysis of type-specific relationships for several lake types. These results are essential for the intercalibration of ecological assessment systems for lakes, as required by the WFD. However, the common database approach has also involved costs and limitations. The data process has been resource-demanding, and the requirements for a flexible database structure have made it less user-friendly for project partners. Moreover, there are considerable heterogeneities among datasets from different countries regarding sampling methods and taxonomic precision; this may reduce comparability of the data and increase the uncertainty of the results. This article gives an overview of the contents and functions of the REBECCA Lakes databases, and of our experiences from constructing and using the databases. We conclude with recommendations for compilation of environmental data for future international projects.