Review of national methodologies for rivers' hydromorphological assessment: A comparative approach in France, Romania, and Croatia

J Environ Manage. 2018 Jul 1:217:735-746. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.04.017. Epub 2018 Apr 24.


Conducting hydromorphological assessments for evaluating the ecological status of rivers is a key requirement of the Directive 2000/60/EC (Water Framework Directive - WFD) within European Union (EU) Member States. This paper aims at understanding how this requirement was implemented, through an original comparative review of methodologies for rivers' hydromorphological assessment in three EU Member States, which joined the EU at different times, and with many differences in terms of hydrographic features, socio-economic and water management systems: France, Romania, and Croatia. More precisely, the paper aims at identifying and understanding the main principles guiding the hydromorphological assessment methodologies, elements and data used, giving an overview of the results of hydromorphological river status assessment, and concluding on the stage of hydromorphological assessment implementation. France developed numerous methodologies for physical habitat survey since the 1990s and it is currently conducting a rigorous hydromorphological field survey, but it does not yet have any national methodology for rivers' hydromorphological status assessment, nevertheless foreseen for the next cycle of the WFD. Besides, Romania and Croatia have already started the assessment of the hydromorphological status of rivers within the two cycles of the River Basin Management Plans and are making efforts to improve the hydromorphological monitoring activity. The methods generally differ in indicators, data used, and spatial scale of analysis, which makes it difficult to compare the results of the assessments. Despite a common water policy, the methodological dissimilarities seem to be rather usual between EU Member States. Therefore, the standardization of methodologies appears to be necessary, but the current results could be useful for setting priorities for river restoration and for achieving a better status at a national scale.

Keywords: Ecological status; Hydromorphology; River Basin District; River Basin Management Plan; Water Framework Directive.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Croatia
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • France
  • Rivers*
  • Romania
  • Water Movements