ICPR – International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine

Mandate for the Working Group 'Ecology' (WG B) 2016 - 2021

Based on the objectives of the programme „Rhine 2020“ within the Convention on the Protection of the Rhine and the coordinated implementation of the Water Framework Directive (EU-WFD) and the Marine Strategy Directive (MSD, within the scope of issues of the river basin Rhine) in the international river basin district (IRBD) Rhine (part A), the Ecology working group (B) is in charge of:

a.    collecting, evaluating data and drafting a report on the ecological quality of waters and alluvial areas in the international river basin district Rhine;
b.    compiling national technical bases in connection with targets relevant for the Working Group B:

  • Improvement of the Rhine ecosystem including the habitat patch connectivity according to “Rhine 2020”;
  • Restoration of the ecological continuity and increasing habitat diversity, an important management aspect according to WFD;
  • Harmonisation of uses of water with environmental targets; an important management aspect according to WFD;

c.    Collecting elements for a joint analysis and treatment of the most important management issues for the IRBD Rhine, eventually by implementing studies serving as basis for decisions for measures of international importance;
d.    The exchange of information on national implementations of recommendations and measures aimed at achieving the above mentioned objectives.

The president of the Working Group B regularly reports on the state of work and eventual problems to the Strategy Group SG and/or the subordinate Strategy Group SG-K.

For the Working Group B this mandate brings about the following topics of work:

I.    Updating, coordination, evaluation of the international biological monitoring programme Rhine and presentation of results (network of waters IRBD Rhine > 2,500 km²)

•    Regular updating of the Rhine Monitoring Programme Biology
•    Coordination of surveillance monitoring according to the EU Water Framework Directive
taking into account recent developments (e.g. climate change, implementation of programmes of measure according to WFD, requirements based on MSD, invasive alien species).
•    Coordinate the implementation of the international biological monitoring programme; supply of data and compilation of results of national biological monitoring programmes;
•    Evaluation of the international biological monitoring programme and examination of the coherence of the evaluation of surveillance monitoring for the biological quality components and the ecological state / the ecological potential taking into account the corresponding developments at EU level (e.g. intercalibration, MSD, regulation on invasive alien species, see above);
•    Exchange on the differentiation of fish regions / fish reference communities including temperature threshold values and migratory fish as a basis for the evaluation of the biological quality component “fish fauna” according to WFD;
•    Drafting of coherent maps and table presentations characterising the biological state of the Rhine, its tributaries, the transitional and coastal waters;
•    Drafting of contributions to reports on the biological/ecological status / ecological potential and on the environmental targets for the 3rd Management Plan due in 2021.
•    Exchange and agreement on the national implementation of the invasive alien species Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council of 22 October 2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species which entered into force on 1st January 2015 ;

II.    Inventory and exchange of information on the implementation of recommendations and measures of importance for the IRBD Rhine

•    Compilation of knowledge on the measures taken in the Member States within the implementation of the WFD (increase habitat diversity, restore continuity) and the programme Rhine 2020 (restore the habitat patch connectivity, e.g. reactivation of alluvial areas, reconnecting oxbow lakes, increasing the structural diversity of river banks, increase biodiversity) aimed at improving the Rhine ecosystem and on their effects;
•    Draft contributions to the update of the survey according to WFD (2018, ev. publication) and to the 3rd Management Plan for the IRBD Rhine (Draft: 2020; final version: 2021)
•    Compilation of data on national measures and their effects within the Master Plan Migratory Fish Rhine, eventually recommendation for the definition of priorities concerning measures aimed at improving river continuity and habitats based on objectives of importance for the IRBD Rhine and determination of research requirements throughout the river basin aimed at a successful continued implementation of the Master Plan Migratory Fish Rhine;
•    Update of the “Master Plan Migratory Fish Rhine” (2009) resp. of the Progress Report (2013) focussing on the representation of measures (improved up- and downstream fish migration and habitats, “best practice”) and of their (measurable) effect on the stock of migratory fish;
•    Development of new indicators for the success of the “Master Plan Migratory Fish Rhine” (apart from the statistics of returning specimen), e.g. interpretation of available data on increased natural reproduction;
•    Representation of the present state of implementation of the EC Eel Regulation in the states (see report no. 207, 2009) targeted at the surveillance of the stock of eel and at the coordination of measures in the Rhine catchment;
•    Compilation of the state of knowledge on innovative techniques of fish protection and downstream fish migration at transverse structures;
•    Support the work of the project group on the continuity of the Upper Rhine (PG ORS) by filtering and preparing technical information concerning the re-introduction of long-distance migratory fish in the Upper Rhine and migration routes from the sea to these areas;
•    Representation of synergy effects and identification of items to harmonise with respect to the implementation of the WFD, the FD, the Habitats Directive, the Regulation on invasive alien species and the MSD.
•    Coordination of the exchange of information between visitors’ centres in the Rhine catchment in order to increase public attention for the coordinated measures of the Migratory Fish Programme

III.    Future cooperation, interlinking with the Marine Strategy Directive, impact of climate change

More precise development of the targets of the Marine Strategy Directive (MSD, within the scope of issues of the river basin Rhine): Exchange of information on migratory fish
After publication of the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the IRBD Rhine (ICPR report no. 219):
•    Continue the exchange of information concerning the impact of climate change on the Rhine ecosystem in order to update the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy as required;
•    Description of the effects of expected temperature changes on the fish fauna, in particular in the programme waters of the “Master Plan Migratory Fish Rhine” (for the update of the ICPR report no. 204).


The Working Group B is working together with three expert groups:

The Expert Group “Fish Fauna” (EG FISH) is treating the following issues:
-    Coordinated implementation of the “Master Plan Migratory Fish Rhine”
-    Contributions to the Rhine monitoring programme biology resp. fish fauna
-    Contributions to impacts of climate change on the fish fauna

If required, the Expert Group “Biological Quality Components” (EG BMON) prepares the Rhine monitoring programme Biology, collects data and examines the coherence of results. It includes the contributions of the Expert Group FISH coherently into its products:
-    Rhine Monitoring Programme Biology
-    Surveillance monitoring according to EU WFD.

Based on the specified concept, the Expert Group “Network of Biotopes on the Rhine” (EG BIOTOP) is to carry out success control of the “Network of biotopes on the Rhine”. The required comprehensive homogenous set of data will be compiled based on a German pilot project with data of the satellite Sentinel II. The EG BIOTOP is to assure the required expert guidance for this pilot project (period: 2016-2017). Afterwards (presumably in 2018), the pilot service for the analysis of freely available satellite pictures of the rest of the main stream of the Rhine could be used.
Furthermore, the EG BIOTOP works on the exchange and agreement concerning the national implementation of the EU regulation on invasive alien species related to water dependant issues in the Rhine catchment (see list of invasive alien species at EU level).