, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 681–691 | Cite as

Approaches for integrated assessment of ecological and eutrophication status of surface waters in Nordic Countries

  • Jesper H. AndersenEmail author
  • Jukka Aroviita
  • Jacob Carstensen
  • Nikolai Friberg
  • Richard K. Johnson
  • Pirkko Kauppila
  • Mats Lindegarth
  • Ciarán Murray
  • Karl Norling


We review approaches and tools currently used in Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) for integrated assessment of ‘ecological status’ sensu the EU Water Framework Directive as well as assessment of ‘eutrophication status’ in coastal and marine waters. Integration principles for combining indicators within biological quality elements (BQEs) and combining BQEs into a final-integrated assessment are discussed. Specific focus has been put on combining different types of information into indices, since several methods are currently employed. As a consequence of the variety of methods used, comparisons across both BQEs and water categories (river, lakes and coastal waters) can be difficult. Based on our analyses, we conclude that some principles and methods for integration can be critical and that a harmonised approach should be developed. Further, we conclude that the integration principles applied within BQEs are critical and in need of harmonisation if we want a better understanding of potential transition in ecological status between surface water types, e.g. when riverine water enters a downstream lake or coastal water body.


Ecological status Water Framework Directive Biological quality elements Coastal eutrophication Integration Assessment 



This study was initiated by WATERS, a Swedish strategic research programme supporting science-based implementation of the Water Framework Directive ( JHA, JC, CM, ML and RJ were funded through WATERS. The authors would like to thank Stina Drakare, Anna-Stiina Heiskanen, Samuli Korpinen and Anne Lyche Solheim for providing information or comments to an earlier version of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

13280_2016_767_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (462 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 463 kb)


  1. Alahuhta, J., K.-M. Vuori, S. Hellsten, M. Järvinen, M. Olin, M. Rask, A. Palomäki, and P.K. Korhonen. 2009. Defining the ecological status of small forest lakes using multiple biological quality elements and paleolimnological analysis. Fundamental and Applied Limnology 175(3): 203–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersen, J.H., C. Murray, H. Kaartokallio, P. Axe, and J. Molvær. 2010. A simple method for confidence rating of eutrophication status assessments. Marine Pollution Bulletin 60: 919–924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andersen, J.H., P. Axe, H. Backer, J. Carstensen, U. Claussen, V. Fleming-Lehtinen, M. Järvinen, H. Kaartokallio, S. Knuuttila, S. Korpinen, M. Laamanen, E. Lysiak-Pastuszak, G. Martin, F. Møhlenberg, C. Murray, G. Nausch, A. Norkko, and A. Villnäs. 2011. Getting the measure of eutrophication in the Baltic Sea: towards improved assessment principles and methods. Biogeochemistry 106: 137–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andersen, J.H., and C. Murray (Eds.) (in press). HARMONY Synthesis Report. Tools and results from the HARMONY project. Aarhus University, DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, 75 pp.Google Scholar
  5. Andersen, J.H., C. Murray, M.M. Larsen, N. Green, T. Høgåsen, K. Gustavson, E. Boalt, G. Garnaga, M. Haarich, J. Manio, J. Strand, and S. Korpinen. (submitted). A tool for integrated assessment of chemical status.Google Scholar
  6. Anon. 2000. Directive 200/60/EC of the European parliament and of the council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for community action in the field of water policy. Official Journal of the European Communities L 327/1.Google Scholar
  7. Anon. 2010. Commission decision of 1 September 2010 on criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters. Official Journal of the European Union L232.Google Scholar
  8. Armitage, P.D., D. Moss, J.F. Wright, and M.T. Furse. 1983. The performance of a new biological water quality score system based on macroinvertebrates over a wide range of unpolluted running-waters. Water Research 17: 333–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Aroviita, J., E. Koskenniemi, J. Kotanen, and H. Hämäläinen. 2008. A priori typology-based prediction of benthic macroinvertebrate fauna for ecological classification of rivers. Environmental Management 42: 894–906.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Aroviita, J., S. Hellsten, J. Jyväsjärvi, L. Järvenpää, M. Järvinen, S.M. Karjalainen, P. Kauppila, A. Keto, M. Kuoppala, K. Manni, J. Mannio, S. Mitikka, M. Olin, J. Perus, A. Pilke, M. Rask, J. Riihimäki, A. Ruuskanen, K. Siimes, T. Sutela, T. Vehanen, and K.-M. Vuori. 2012. Guidelines for the ecological and chemical status classification of surface waters for 20122013updated assessment criteria and their application. Environmental Administration Guidelines 7/2012: 1–144. (In Finnish)
  11. Birk, S., W. Bonne, A. Borja, S. Brucet, A. Courrat, S. Poikane, et al. 2012. Three hundred ways to assess Europe’s surface waters: an almost complete overview of biological methods to implement the Water Framework Directive. Ecological Indicators 18: 31–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bäck, S., and A. Ruuskanen. 2000. Distribution and maximum depth of Fucus vesiculosus along the Finnish coastline. Marine Biology 136(2): 303–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blomqvist, M., D. Krause-Jensen, P. Olsson, S. Qvarfordt, and S. A. Wikström. 2012. Potential eutrophication indicators based on Swedish coastal macrophytes. Deliverable 3.2-1, WATERS Report no. 2012:2. Havsmiljöinstitutet, Sweden.
  14. Borja, A., and J.G. Rodriguez. 2010. Problems associated with the the ‘one-out, all-out’ principle, when using multiple ecosystem components in assessing the ecological status of marine waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin 60: 1143–1146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Borja, A., J. Bald, J. Franco, J. Larreta, I. Muxika, M. Revilla, J.G. Rodriguez, O. Solaun, A. Uriarte, and V. Valencia. 2009. Using multiple ecosystem components, in assessing ecological status in Spanish (Basque Country) Atlantic marine waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin 59: 54–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Borja, A., T. Prins, N. Simboura, J.H. Andersen, T. Berg, J.C. Marques, J.M. Neto, N. Papadopoulou, J. Reker, H. Teixeira, and L. Uusitalo. 2014. Tales from a thousand and one way to integrate marine biodiversity components when assessing the environmental status. Frontiers in Marine Science. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2014.00072.Google Scholar
  17. Brodersen, K.P., P.C. Dall, and C. Lindegaard. 1998. The fauna in the upper stony littoral of Danish lakes: macroinvertebrates as trophic indicators. Freshwater Biology 39: 577–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Carletti, A., and A.-S. Heiskanen. 2009. Water Framework Directive intercalibration technical report Part 3: Coastal and Transitional waters. JRC Scientific and Technical Reports EUR 23838 EN/3, 244 pp.Google Scholar
  19. Caroni, R., W. van de Bund, R.T. Clarke, and R.K. Johnson. 2013. Combination of multiple Biological Quality Elements into waterbody assessment of surface waters. Hydrobiologia 704: 437–451.Google Scholar
  20. Carstensen, J., D. Krause-Jensen, K. Dahl, andP. Henriksen. 2008. Macroalgae and phytoplankton as indicators of ecological status of Danish coastal waters. NERI Technical Report No. 683. 90 pp.
  21. Claussen, U., W. Zewenbom, U. Brockmann, D. Topcu, and P. Bot. 2009. Assessment of eutrophication status of transitional, coastal and marine waters within OSPAR. Hydrobiologia 629: 49–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dahl, J., and R.K. Johnson. 2004. A multimetric macroinvertebrate index for detecting organic pollution of streams in southern Sweden. Archiv für Hydrobiologie 160: 487–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fleming-Lehtinen, V., J.H. Andersen, J. Carstensen, E. Lysiak-Pastuszak, C. Murray, M. Pyhälä, and M. Laamanen. 2015. Recent developments in assessment methodology reveal an expanding eutro-phication problem area in the Baltic Sea. Ecological Indicators 48: 380–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. HELCOM. 2009. Eutrophication in the Baltic Sea. An integrated thematic assessment of eutrophication in the Baltic Sea region. Baltic Sea Environmental Proceedings No. 115B. Helsinki Commission. 148 pp.
  25. HELCOM. 2010. Ecosystem Health of the Baltic Sea. Baltic Sea Environmental Proceedings No. 122. Helsinki Commission. 63 pp.
  26. HELCOM. 2014. Eutrophication status of the Baltic Sea 20072011. Baltic Sea Environmental Proceedings No. 143. 41 pp.
  27. Höglander, H., B. Karlson, M. Johansen, J. Walve, and A. Andersson. 2013. Overview of coastal phytoplankton indicators and their potential use in Swedish waters. Deliverable 3.3-1, WATERS Report no. 2013:5. Havsmiljöinstitutet, Sweden.
  28. HVMFS 2013:19. (2013). Havs- och vattenmyndighetens föreskrifter om klassificering och miljökvalitetsnormer avseende ytvatten. (In Swedish).Google Scholar
  29. Johnson, R.K., W. Goedkoop, J. Fölster, and A. Wilander. 2007. Relationships between macroinvertebrate assemblages of stony littoral habitats and water chemistry variables indicative of acid-stress. Water, Air, and Soil pollution 7: 323–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Josefson, A.B., M. Blomqvist, J.L.S. Hansen, R. Rosenberg, and B. Rygg. 2009. Assessment of marine benthic quality change in gradient of disturbance: comparison of different Scandinavian multi-metric indices. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 1263–1277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jyväsjärvi, J., J. Aroviita, and H. Hämäläinen. 2014. An extended Benthic Quality Index for assessment of lake profundal macroinvertebrates: addition of indicator taxa by multivariate ordination and weighted averaging. Freshwater Science 33: 995–1007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Krause-Jensen, D., T.M. Greve, and K. Nielsen. 2005. Eelgrass as a bioindicator under the European Water Framework Directive. Water Resources Management 19(1): 63–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Leonardsson, K., M. Blomqvist, and R. Rosenberg. 2009. Theoretical and practical aspects of benthic quality assessment according to the EU-Water Framework Directive: examples from Swedish waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 1286–1296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Löfgren, S., S. Stendera, M. Kahlert, and E. Willen. 2009. Klassificering av sjöar och vattendrag - nordisk jämförelse utifrån svenska bedömningsgrunder. Kungliga Skogs- och Lantbruksakademiens Tidskrift, KSLAT 3(2009): 1–33. (In Swedish).Google Scholar
  35. Lugoli, G., M. Garmendia, P. Lehtinen, S. Kaupilla, M.Revilla Moncheva, Slabakova Roselli, K.Dromph Vanencia, and A. Basset. 2012. Application of a new multi-metric phytoplankton index to the assessment of ecological status in marine and transitional waters. Ecological Indicators 23: 338–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Naturvårdsverket. 2007. Status, potential och kvalitetskrav för sjöar, vattendrag, kustvatten och vatten i övergångszon: en handbok om hur kvalitetskrav i ytvattenförekomster kan bestämmas och följas upp. Report 2007: 4. ISBN 978-91-620-0147-6. Also available in English; Status, potential and quality requirements for lakes, watercourses, coastal and transitional waters: A handbook on how quality requirements in bodies of surface water can be determined and monitored. ISBN 978-91-620-0174-2. (In Swedish).Google Scholar
  37. Novak, M.A., and E.W. Bode. 1992. Percent model affinity: a new measure of macroinvertebrate community composition. Journal of North American Benthological Society 11: 80–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. OSPAR. 2003. The OSPAR Integrated Report 2003 on the Eutrophication Status of the OSPAR Maritime Area based upon the first application of the Comprehensive Procedure. OSPAR Commission, 59 pp.Google Scholar
  39. OSPAR. 2008. Second integrated report on the eutrophication status of the OSPAR maritime area. OSPAR Commission, 107 pp.Google Scholar
  40. Penning, E.W., B. Dudley, M. Mjelde, S. Hellsten, J. Hanganu, A. Kolada, M. vd Berg, S. Poikane, G. Phillips, N. Willby, and F. Ecke. 2008. Using aquatic macrophyte community indices to define the ecological status of European lakes. Aquatic Ecology 42(2): 253–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Perus, J., E. Bonsdorff, S. Bäck, H.-G.- Lax, A. Villnäs, and V. Westberg. 2007. Zoobenthos as indicators of ecological status in Coastal Brackish Waters: a comparative study from the Baltic Sea. Ambio 36(2–3): 250–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rask, M., K.-M. Vuori, H. Hämäläinen, M. Järvinen, S. Hellsten, H. Mykrä, L. Arovola, J. Ruuhijärvi, J. Jyväsjärvi, I. Kolari, M. Olin, E. Salonen, and P. Valkeajärvi. 2011. Ecological classification of large lakes in Finland: comparison of classification approaches using multiple quality elements. Hydrobiologia 660: 37–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rolff, C. 2009. Hur har de marina bedömningsgrunderna utfallit i statusbedömningen ? En beskrivande nationell överblick. SWECO Environment 2009-02-12. (In Swedish).Google Scholar
  44. Rosenberg, R., M. Blomqvist, H.C. Nilsson, H. Cederwall, and A. Dimming. 2004. Marine quality assessment by use of benthic species-abundance distributions: a proposed new protocol within the European Water Framework Directive. Marine Pollution Bulletin 49: 728–739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ruuskanen, A. 2014. Depth distribution of selected perennial algae. Available at:
  46. Rygg, B., and K. Norling. 2013. Norwegian Sensitivity Index (NSI) for marine macroinvertebrates, and an update of Indicator Species Index (ISI). NIVA Report. 46 pp.
  47. Schneider, S., and E.-A. Lindstrøm. 2011. The periphyton index of trophic status PIT: a new eutrophication metric based on non-diatomaceous benthic algae in Nordic rivers. Hydrobiologia 665: 143–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Skriver, J., N. Friberg, and J. Kirkegaard. 2000. Biological assessment of running waters in Denmark 2000: introduction of the Danish Stream Fauna Index (DSFI). International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnology Proceedings 27: 1822–1830.Google Scholar
  49. Søndergaard, M., T.L. Lauridsen, E.A. Kristensen, A. Baattrup-Pedersen, P. Wiberg-Larsen, R. Bjerring, and N. Friberg. 2013. Biologiske indikatorer til vurdering af økologisk kvalitet i danske søer og vandløb. - Videnskabelig rapport fra DCE - Nationalt Center for Miljø og Energi nr. 59, 78 pp. (In Danish).
  50. Torn, K., D. Krause-Jensen, and G. Martin. 2006. Present and past depth distribution of bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) in the Baltic Sea. Aquatic Botany 84(1): 53–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vannforskriften. 2006. Forskrift om rammer for vannforvaltningen. (In Norwegian).
  52. Veileder 02:2013. 2013. Klassifisering av miljötillstånd i vann. Økologisk og kjemisk klassifiseringssystem for kystvann, grunnvann, innsjøer og elver. Miljødirektoratet. (In Norwegian).–veiledning/revidert_klassifiseringsveileder140123_vzis-.pdf.
  53. Vuori, K.-M., S. Mitikka, and H. Vuoristo (eds.). 2009. Guidance on ecological classification of surface waters in Finland. Environmental Administration Guidelines 3/2009: 1–120. (In Finnish)
  54. Willén, E. 2007. Växtplankton i sjöar. Uppsala: Institutionen för Miljöanalys. Rapport/Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Miljöanalys, 2007:6. 33 pp. (In Swedish).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesper H. Andersen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jukka Aroviita
    • 2
  • Jacob Carstensen
    • 3
  • Nikolai Friberg
    • 4
  • Richard K. Johnson
    • 5
  • Pirkko Kauppila
    • 6
  • Mats Lindegarth
    • 7
  • Ciarán Murray
    • 3
  • Karl Norling
    • 8
  1. 1.NIVA Denmark Water ResearchCopenhagen SDenmark
  2. 2.Freshwater Centre, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)OuluFinland
  3. 3.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  4. 4.Norwegian Institute for Water ResearchOsloNorway
  5. 5.Department of Aquatic Sciences and AssessmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  6. 6.Marine Research Center, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)HelsinkiFinland
  7. 7.Department of Biological and Environmental Science - TjärnöUniversity of GothenburgStrömstadSweden
  8. 8.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden

Personalised recommendations