ETC/ICM Report 4/2020: Comparison of ecological status between countries and river basin management plans (RBMP) cycles

17 Dec 2020

Anne Lyche Solheim, Kari Austnes, Peter Kristensen, Sebastian Birk

This technical report provides an overview of the comparability of ecological status for single biological quality elements (BQEs), for abiotic quality elements (QEs) and for overall ecological status, as well as the consequences for the 3rd RBMP assessment.


  • The confidence of European assessments of ecological status and trends relies on comparable data between countries and cycles of river basin management plans
  • Analysis of data on ecological status for rivers and lakes reported to WISE (Water information system for Europe) shows major comparability issues due to variable use of biological and abiotic quality elements and how they are combined to overall ecological status.
  • The best option to ensure comparability and illustrate progress is to use the status reported for single biological quality elements, while the best option to provide geographical coverage of all water bodies is to use overall ecological status.
  • Further work is needed to harmonize the classification methods to improve comparability between countries and between successive management cycles.

Prepared by:

Lead authors: Anne Lyche Solheim (NIVA), Kari Austnes (NIVA), Peter Kristensen (EEA) and Sebastian Birk (UDE)

EEA project manager: Peter Kristensen
Coordination: Christiane Katterfeld (UFZ)
Language Check: Shane Hume (CENIA)
Layout: F&U confirm, Leipzig