, Volume 566, Issue 1, pp 3-29

First online:

The STAR project: context, objectives and approaches

  • Mike FurseAffiliated withCentre for Ecology and Hydrology, CEH Dorset, Winfrith Technology Centre Email author 
  • , Daniel HeringAffiliated withInstitute of Hydrology, University of Duisburg-Essen
  • , Otto MoogAffiliated withInstitute for Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna
  • , Piet VerdonschotAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Environment, Alterra
  • , Richard K. JohnsonAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • , Karel BrabecAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology and Ecology, Masaryk University
  • , Kostas GritzalisAffiliated withHellenic Centre for Marine Research, Institute of Inland Waters
  • , Andrea BuffagniAffiliated withCNR-Water Research Institute
  • , Paulo PintoAffiliated withCentre of Applied Ecology, University of Evora
    • , Nikolai FribergAffiliated withDepartment of Freshwater Ecology, NERI, National Environmental Research Institute
    • , John Murray-BlighAffiliated withSouth West Region, Manley House, Kestrel Way, Environment Agency
    • , Jiri KokesAffiliated withVyzkumny Ustav Vodohospodarsky T.G. Masayka
    • , Renate AlberAffiliated withLABBIO
    • , Philippe Usseglio-PolateraAffiliated withCentre of Ecotoxicology, Biodiversity and Environmental Health, University of Metz
    • , Peter HaaseAffiliated withSenckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft
    • , Roger SweetingAffiliated withFreshwater Biological Association
    • , Barbara BisAffiliated withInstitute of Ecology and Nature Protection, Department of Applied Ecology, University of Łodź
    • , Krzysztof SzoszkiewiczAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Environmental Protection, Agricultural University of August Cieszkowski
    • , Hanna SoszkaAffiliated withLake Protection Laboratory, Instytut Ochrony Środowiska
    • , Gunta SpringeAffiliated withInstitute of Biology, University of Latvia
    • , Ferdinand SporkaAffiliated withInstitute of Zoology, Department of Hydrobiology, Slovak Academy of Sciences
    • , Il’ja KrnoAffiliated withFaculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Comenius University Bratislava

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STAR is a European Commission Framework V project (EVK1-CT-2001-00089). The project aim is to provide practical advice and solutions with regard to many of the issues associated with the Water Framework Directive. This paper provides a context for the STAR research programme through a review of the requirements of the directive and the Common Implementation Strategy responsible for guiding its implementation. The scientific and strategic objectives of STAR are set out in the form of a series of research questions and the reader is referred to the papers in this volume that address those objectives, which include: (a) Which methods or biological quality elements are best able to indicate certain stressors? (b) Which method can be used on which scale? (c) Which method is suited for early and late warnings? (d) How are different assessment methods affected by errors and uncertainty? (e) How can data from different assessment methods be intercalibrated? (f) How can the cost-effectiveness of field and laboratory protocols be optimised? (g) How can boundaries of the five classes of Ecological Status be best set? (h) What contribution can STAR make to the development of European standards? The methodological approaches adopted to meet these objectives are described. These include the selection of the 22 stream-types and 263 sites sampled in 11 countries, the sampling protocols used to sample and survey phytobenthos, macrophytes, macroinvertebrates, fish and hydromorphology, the quality control and uncertainty analyses that were applied, including training, replicate sampling and audit of performance, the development of bespoke software and the project outputs. This paper provides the detailed background information to be referred to in conjunction with most of the other papers in this volume. These papers are divided into seven sections: (1) typology, (2) organism groups, (3) macrophytes and diatoms, (4) hydromorphology, (5) tools for assessing European streams with macroinvertebrates, (6) intercalibration and comparison and (7) errors and uncertainty. The principal findings of the papers in each section and their relevance to the Water Framework Directive are synthesised in short summary papers at the beginning of each section. Additional outputs, including all sampling and laboratory protocols and project deliverables, together with a range of freely downloadable software are available from the project website at


Water Framework Directive ecological status biological quality elements intercalibration uncertainty software