Núria Bonada Caparrós, associate professor in the Ecology Department at the University of Barcelona
Miguel Cañedo-Argüelles, University of Vic; Narcís Prat, University of Barcelona; and Tony Herrera, Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua (FNCA).
University of Barcelona
River biodiversity has declined drastically in the last few decades. This is because rivers are subject to multiple pressures (dam construction, water pollution, degradation of riverine forests, etc.) whose impacts accumulate as they run downstream from the mountains to the sea. Also, freshwater consumption has spiraled due to world population growth, aggravating problems of pollution and drought.
The concept of river reserves arises from the need to protect river stretches that contribute to halting the extinction of freshwater species and to preserve the many goods and services that rivers provide. In Spain, Royal Decree 907/2007 sets out procedures for registering protected areas for inclusion in each hydrographic zone, among them river nature reserves.
However, it fails to specify selection criteria, leaving it to each river basin authority to set its own. The decision as to which river stretches should become reserves is important if conservation goals are to be met, and should be based on objective criteria that factor both ecological and socioeconomic variables. This project will develop systematic planning tools for the designation of river reserves by reference to numerous biological parameters and including elements of public participation.
These tools will also be useful to monitor the stretches already under protection, or as input to decisions about their enlargement or modification. They will also facilitate land-use planning and the development of river reserve management plans.