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Customs, habits, and traditions: the role of nonscientific factors in the development of ecological assessment methods

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A large number of new ecological assessment tools have been developed in Europe in response to the obligations imposed on Member States by the Water Framework Directive. These have been extensively evaluated and compared to ensure consistent application of this legislation across the European Union. In this essay, we suggest that part of the variation between national approaches reflects differences in the customs, habits, and traditions of the Member States. Using phytobenthos (benthic algae) as an example, we show how the initial selection of a method may, itself, generate an infrastructure that makes it harder for an organization to change to an alternative method in the future. Differences in academic tradition around Europe, exemplified by the strong tradition of teaching systematic biology in central Europe, can lead to differences in the types of method that are adopted that cannot be explained wholly by their effectiveness as measures of ecological status. This focus on national differences in assessment, however, needs to be set in context in a wider debate about the effectiveness of water management regimes, if the objectives of the Water Framework Directive are to be achieved. WIREs Water 2015, 2:159–165. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1068 This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness Human Water > Water Governance

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Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Human Water > Water Governance

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