Shallow Lakes


, Volume 584, Issue 1, pp 381-394

First online:

Shallow lakes, the water framework directive and life. What should it all be about?

  • Brian MossAffiliated withSchool of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool Email author 

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The European Water Framework Directive offers an unprecedented opportunity for improvement of ecological quality of both freshwater and marine systems. It has implications for every aspect of how catchments are used by human societies and could potentially mean a step change in how waters and catchments are managed. It must be implemented, however, by official bodies, which seem likely to apply ecologically outdated approaches, used in the past simply to manage water quality, to tackle the very different problem of improving ecological quality. Ecological quality can be characterised by parsimony of available nutrients, characteristic physical and biological structure, strong connectivity among systems and mechanisms of resilience to cope with normal, natural change. The implications of these are that high quality systems in a given location do not have unique lists of species and single formulae for how the biodiversity is constituted. They have considerable inherent variability whilst preserving their fundamental functional characteristics. This appears not to have been recognised by official bodies that seek simple taxonomic indices as measures of quality. To some extent this is a function of the way the Directive has been written, but a slavish adherence to this approach may undermine the spirit of the Directive and result in a failure to bring about the fundamental reform that is needed.


Nutrients Connectivity Biodiversity Restoration Ecological quality