General description of the EU project Aquaterra

As one of the first environmental Integrated Projects in the EU Framework Programme 6, 'AquaTerra' is active since the 1st of June 2004 for a time period of 5 years. It has 45 partner organisations in 12 EU countries as well as in Romania, Switzerland and Serbia and hosts university partners, small to medium enterprises and environmental protection agencies. Its objectives are:

  • To provide better understanding of the river-sediment-soil-groundwater system at various temporal and spatial scales
  • To provide the scientific basis for improved river basin management
  • To develop specific tools for water and soil quality monitoring
  • To develop integrated modelling for impact evaluation of pollution as well as climate and land-use changes for definition of long-term management schemes

These objectives will be achieved through 10 sub-projects with BASIN investigating selected sites in five contrasting European river basins (Brévilles, Ebro, Meuse, Elbe and Danube). This sub-project concentrates on soil-groundwater-river as well as floodplain-sediment-river interactions. Building on this, BIOGEOCHEM investigates soil-filter and transport functions, the fate of pollutants in soils and sediments in order to determine impacts on water quality.

This work combines with FLUX that investigates transport and turnover of inorganic and organic solids and solutes in order to evaluate effects of changes in land use. It is also linked to HYDRO that investigates impacts of climate change on the water cycle through water balance and quality parameters. A further sub-project, TREND, will yield improved understanding in soil and water quality trends by extrapolating from the past to the future and by recognising adverse trends. In collaboration with the above modules, MONITOR will develop and validate new analytical techniques by focussing on emerging compounds such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides in the environment and by providing new protocols for non-regulated pollutants.

Results from the above subprojects will be used in COMPUTE to model fate and transport of pollutants at different scales. EUPOL and INTEGRATOR disseminate results to be used in future environmental EU policies and integrate the results of the various AquaTerra sub-projects. Finally, KNOWMAN disseminates results to scientific and stakeholder communities through workshops, seminars, publishing activities and summer schools.

In this manner, AquaTerra will meet the challenge of integrated modelling of the river-sediment-soil-groundwater system and will offer advanced tools for the management of catchment areas and river basins in the context of global change.

More information can be found on the website Aquaterra

AquaTerra: Workpackage Trend
Within this European framework the sub-project TREND focuses on:

  1. understanding the temporal variability of floodplain soil parameters, relating land-use and soil erosion to these parameters and the effect on soil and sediment ecological functioning
  2. understanding the temporal variability of micropollutant concentrations in floodplain soils and sediments due to inundations, and address bioavailability to soil (Lumbricidae) and sediment (benthic) biota
  3. understanding resilience of natural cycling processes in soils and sediments, towards perturbation, contamination and inundation, taking organic matter mineralization as the model functional process to investigate this phenomenon
  4. developing Integrated Quality Indicators (IQI), indicative for trends in ecological functioning in sediments
For objective 2, emphasis is on the bioavailability of micropollutants (in particular Cd and Zn) and carbon dynamics. The core is a monitoring program (selected Meuse, Elbe, Danube sites) to characterise the temporal variability of micropollutant mobility and bioavailability in periodically flooded river-soil systems. For sediments, elaborate techniques to characterize metal availability (ratio of Acid Volatile Sulfide and Simultaneously Extracted metals, AVS/SEM) and organic pollutant availability (6 h Tenax test) will be applied. Implications for ecological risks will be addressed, including effects in neutral red retention (NRRT) assay and effects on ecosystem functions such as reduced mineralisation and community characteristics.
Previous research has demonstrated that the health of earthworms can be assessed relatively easily using the so-called neutral red retention assay, applied to coelomocytes taken from the body cavity. This assay, which measures the stability of the lysosomal membrane and hence cell viability, has shown to be a very reliable sublethal and sensitive indicator, which is well correlated with the level of total sediment pollution. The advantage is that the test can be done using animals collected directly in the field. There is a need for extending the scope of the assay by (1) establishing causal links with the bioavailability of sediment pollution, (2) performing an ecological calibration, relating the neutral red assay to the bioturbating and mixing function of earthworms, (3) investigating the variability of the assay in space and time, and (4) developing an energy-budget based model by which ecological functions of earthworms may be predicted under different scenarios. A set of study sites will be chosen, in conjunction with the sites selected by other partners, at different places in the river basins and NRRT tests will be done repeatedly at one site and along several sites, using selected species of earthworms. At each site inventories will be done of bioavailability of soil pollution and earthworm activity.
Duration: 4 years (June 2004-May 2008)
Participants: Anton Poot,  Bart Koelmans (WUR); Eric Bleeker, Kees van Gestel (VU), Jos Brils, Diana Slijkerman (TNO),

More information can be found on the website Aquaterra

AquaTerra: Contribution AEW 'Temporal and spatial trends in micropollutant bioavailability (PhD Project Anton Poot)'

Contaminants in aquatic sediments are only partly available for transport or uptake by biota. This means that transport risks and ecological risks of for instance trace metals and organic micropollutants depend on the mobile or bioavailable fraction. The past years several methods have been developed to quantify these fractions and they have been tested mainly in laboratory settings. For proper assessment of risks, however, important questions are, (a) whether these methods can be used in situ and (b) whether in situ bioavailability and mobility changes can be expected on a temporal scale, under anticipated climate scenarios, and what the main differences and implications are for the five cachments addressed in Aquaterra. The temporal changes will be addressed mainly for trace metals in the Meuse catchment where redox changes play a role. For organic contaminants we will include samples of several catchments and have a special look at the effects of carbonaceous materials (soots, chars) on bioavailability and mobility.

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