Rivers and lakes

Rivers and lakes are the permanent freshwater inland surface waters, including water courses and water bodies. Around 250 species of macrophytes and 250 species of fish inhabit European inland surface waters, and a significant number of birds and mammals depend on freshwater wetlands for breeding or feeding. River ecosystems are among the most species-rich in temperate regions due to their naturally high habitat heterogeneity and connectivity.

Lakes, reservoirs, and other wetlands have an important function for river ecosystems by influencing water quality and quantity within the catchment area. Rivers themselves transport water and sediments downstream, thus preventing flooding of adjacent settlements and infrastructure within their natural river beds, and providing the structural, and nutrition background for downstream freshwater habitats. Thus, freshwater ecosystems provide many important goods and services including the provision of food, clean water, building materials, and flood and erosion control.

From the 233 habitat types listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive 19 can be classified as lake and river habitats. Some 179 species covered by the Habitats Directive are linked to lake and river ecosystems. Of this 33 % of lake and river reptiles and 22 % of mammals are threatened. 

Figures from the EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline

Further reading:


Selected links

LIFE projects on freshwater

BioFresh – The network for global freshwater biodiversity

WISE - Water quality in rivers and lakes

The Climate Change and Freshwater portal