Occurrence and variability of River Habitat Survey features across Europe and the consequences for data collection and evaluation

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River Habitat Survey (RHS) data collected for the EU-funded STAR project was used to identify hydromorphological characteristic features of rivers in four European regions namely: lowlands; mountain; the Alps; and the Mediterranean. Using RHS attributes, Habitat Quality Assessment (HQA) - a measure of natural habitat diversity, and Habitat Modification Score (HMS) - a measure of anthropogenic modification, we identified considerable differences in frequency, diversity and evenness of features between the regions. A relatively small subset of features clearly distinguish the hydromorphological characters of lowland, Alpine and southern European rivers. It was more difficult to distinguish mountain rivers from Alpine rivers. The highest statistical differences are observed between Lowland and Mountain region. Within the four regions studied the RHS attributes that most strongly influence the HQA and HMS indices were identified. We conclude that specific effort should be made to ensure these are recorded properly as part of the quality control of RHS data.

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