Dr. Sandra Poikāne

I am an aquatic ecologist, currently employed at Sustainable Resources, Joint Research Centre of European Commission in Ispra, Italy. My research covers several aspects of applied ecology, focusing on aquatic bioassessment and the definition of biological integrity and ecosystem health. Currently, I am leading pan-European intercalibration work, which has resulted in harmonization of ecological assessment of lakes, rivers and coastal waters. I am leading a project on developing and harmonizing nutrient targets in surface waters in Europe.  I have authored 30 papers on these topics in peer-reviewed journals.

Presentation topic

Defining and assessing ecological quality of European waters: Science – policy interface 

In Europe, the Water Framework Directive establishes a framework for the protection and improvement of inland and coastal waters, which aims to achieve ‘good’ surface water status by, at the latest, 2027. In order to harmonise ecological assessment systems and to ensure a consistent level of ambition in the protection and restoration of surface water bodies across the EU, an intercalibration exercise was launched, involving hundreds of scientists from all Member States.

However, this task presents formidable challenges in the union of 28 Member States and 510 million inhabitants whose environmental, cultural, political and socio-economic identities influence awareness and attitudes to water resources and the willingness or ability to protect or restore them. The intercalibration process has opened a scientific debate in Europe regarding the development of assessment methods and comparability of the results they produce. Additionally, this process also has important implications for environmental management that extend to other legislation. In summary, this project led to the innovative new approaches and resulted in more than harmonized 300 methods published in the EC Decision.  Despite a significant level of statistical abstraction, intercalibration yielded a fundamental and unified vision of what constitutes good ecology across Europe, in principle ensuring greater parity in the funds invested to achieve good ecological status.

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