Knowledge, Assessment, and Management for Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosys-tem Services Across EU policies — AQUACROSS

Knowledge, Assessment, and Management for Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosys-tem Services Across EU policies — AQUACROSS

About the Project

Aquatic ecosystems are rich in biodiversity and home to a diverse array of species and habitats, providing numerous economic and social benefits to Europe. Many of these valuable ecosystems are currently at significant risk of being irreversibly damaged by human activities and by the numerous pressures these create, including pollution, contamination, invasive species, overfishing and climate change.

Existing policies, such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD), Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), and the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, have been unable to halt and reverse the trend of declining biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems.

Knowledge, Assessment, and Management for AQUAtic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services aCROSS EU policies (AQUACROSS) aims to support EU efforts to protect aquatic biodiversity and ensure the provision of aquatic ecosystem services. Funded by Europe’s Horizon 2020 research programme, AQUACROSS seeks to advance knowledge and application of ecosystem-based management (EBM) for aquatic ecosystems to support the timely achievement of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy targets. To do this, AQUACROSS considers the EU policy framework for aquatic ecosystems and builds on knowledge stemming from different sources to develop innovative manage-ment tools, concepts and business models for aquatic ecosystems.

The AQUACROSS approach is built around four pillars of work and eight case studies:

  • Pillar 1: Real-world testing—the project will ensure stakeholder engagement, knowledge exchange and social learning to achieve practical policy solutions and end-user uptake. Representatives from science, policy, business and case study areas will compose the project’s Science-Policy-Business Think Tank, which will help steer project activities and check the accuracy and relevancy of its results.
  • Pillar 2: Giving direction—it is important to understand the current political setting in order to facilitate policy coordination across aquatic ecosystems. Work under this pillar will assess existing political processes and legislation to identify synergies and barriers to aquatic management. AQUACROSS will develop a conceptual Assessment Framework (AF) to assess aquatic ecosystems in line with integrated management, taking into account concepts of resilience and uncertainty.
  • Pillar 3: Increasing scientific knowledge—work under this pillar will develop and test protocols and guidance materials for testing the AQUACROSS AF in the case studies. This work includes identifying and assessing drivers and pressures of aquatic ecosystems; understanding causalities between biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services; ensuring exchange of data, information and research results through the Information Platform; and forecasting biodiversity and ecosystem service provision.
  • Pillar 4: Improving management— building on the work undertaken in the previous pillars, this pillar aims to develop concepts, practices and tools for better implementation of EBM. This includes identifying and understanding the linkages between aquatic ecosystems and human well-being and identifying innovative management responses for aquatic ecosystems.

Expected Impacts

AQUACROSS responds to pressing societal and economic needs, tackling policy challenges from an integrated perspective and adding value to the use of available knowledge. The expected impacts of AQUACROSS are three-fold:

  • Advance science and knowledge by contributing to the integration of biodiversity, freshwater, coastal and marine knowledge, concepts, information, methods, and tools across multiple research fields. This includes an assessment framework which links human activities to the state of aquatic ecosystems, and how this link affects the provision of ecosystem services and human well-being.
  • Connect policy, businesses, and society by improving ecosystem-based man-agement; thus, resulting in broader constituencies for conservation and expanded possibilities to guide decision-making, as well as opportunities to add or create new value to protected areas and manage aquatic ecosystems sustainably outside of these areas.
  • Support the achievement of EU and international biodiversity targets by delivering a consolidated and coherent outlook on EU policy for aquatic ecosystems; increasing knowledge on biodiversity and drivers of aquatic ecosystem change; supporting the management of Natura 2000 sites and invasive alien species; and testing business models for the provision of ecosystem services that will contribute to ecosystem protection.


Main Link: AQUACROSS project website:

Date: 01 June 2015 to 30 November 2018

Funding: European Commission, Directorate-General Research & Innovation (DG Research & Innovation)

Lead Partner: Ecologic Institute, Germany