CNR-IRSA activities related to INHABIT

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Cyprus IC

CNR-IRSA was responsible for the implementation of two projects financed by the Environmental and Agriculture Ministry (WDD - Water Development Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, Nicosia) of the Cyprus Republic and linked with the European intercalibration exercise for river macroinvertbrates. - ‘Tender for supplying services for samplings from two river water bodies (Kargotis, Xeropotamos), analysis and evaluation of samples for the purpose of participation in the Intercalibration exercise of European Community’, Notice Nr: 62/2005 and ‘Tender for supplying services for samplings from river water bodies for the purpose of participation in the intercalibration exercise of European community’, contract Nr: 90/2006.  

At the time of the projects, Cyprus, as a EU Member State, had not developed an assessment system for rivers, although rivers are extensively present throughout the island. Before WFD promulgation Cyprus Water Authorities focused on the chemical assessment of water quality and particularly on hydrological measurements, being water supply a common problem on the island. For the objective of participating in the Intercalibration exercise, and simultaneously developing a dedicated biological assessment system for rivers, the WDD has identified the most important river types on the island and has provided data for inclusion in the Intercalibration register and outlined experimental activities.
Activities were thus related to the collection of field data in different water bodies, located in three different areas - all in the western part of the island - : Troodos mountains, Polis and Paphos. A total of 40 reaches were investigated during three sampling seasons. The approach in selecting water bodies was to cover the whole quality gradient of Cyprus rivers, including Reference sites, as required by the Intercalibration exercise and by WFD, in order to ensure the best possible estimation of the quality conditions for the stream type examined. A range of different environmental data – chemico-physical, habitat and hydromorphological – were collected together with biological data, in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the main stressors on impacted sites. The approach was similar the one adopted in other CNR-IRSA projects, involving the application of CARAVAGGIO method for hydromorphological and habitat characterization. Main anthropogenic stresses affecting water bodies were found to be water pollution and hydro-morphological and habitat alterations and land use impact. Invertebrate data were used for calculate biological metrics able to represent the anthropic stress including Intercalibration Common Metrics and related multimetric index (STAR_ICMi).
Some of the obtained results, and implications linked to the obtained results, are here briefly summarized.

  • Level of alteration in rivers in Cyprus is generally lower to the one observed in other European countries. Within Cyprus territory, it was possible to find several river reaches in reference condition, or at least showing not significant anthropogenic stress. Strong differences are found between very natural sites and altered ones. Alteration in stream morphology is the cause of diminishing the ecological status of almost natural sites, characterized by high ecological potentiality. Attention should be directed to preserving the natural sites as they are now.
  • Land use seemed to be the pressure that mostly affect the studied river sites.
  • Assessment metrics considering invertebrate abundance have shown to be the metrics best correlated to anthropic pressures, supporting WFD requirement for the use of quantitative methods to assess rivers’ ecological quality.
  • The STAR_ICMi index was selected for ecological quality quantification at rivers reaches. This index proved to be the most successful in describing the general degradation observed at Cyprus rivers. This result allows Cyprus to fulfil Intercalibration and WFD requirements. The STAR_ICMi was eventually adopted from Cyprus authorities as  official assessment system.
  • Notwithstanding what mentioned above, more detailed analyses are suggested with the aim of developing metrics dedicated to the evaluation of specific anthropogenic stress, in order to prepare specific plans to restore rivers and to obtain tools to assess the efficacy of the planned measures (see INHABIT project results).
  • Finally, in relation to the peculiar taxonomical composition of Cyprus rivers, it must be emphasized how particular effort should be placed on the conservation of sites classified, at present, as Reference (as required by the WFD) or High status.

Some views of Cyprus environments