Intercalibration and comparison - major results and conclusions from the STAR project

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The main results of the STAR project on the intercalibration of boundaries of European assessment systems and comparison between assessment methods are summarized here. The main findings are outlined in the context of the Water Framework Directive that requires reliable instructions to be set up on how to use and harmonise assessment systems and methods for European rivers. The main papers published on these subjects by STAR partners are reviewed, with focus on major questions addressed and approaches used for investigation. The need for broad coverage of geographic ranges and pressure gradients, together with the goal of providing outcomes appropriate to the effective application of the WFD are emphasized. Extensive datasets from a wide range of countries, stream types and sites and a large number of methods, metrics and approaches are compared and tested and various cross-cutting themes emerged. Among these, the value of the use of benchmarking systems for comparison and intercalibration is highlighted. Two ways of looking for comparability of assessment systems results were analyzed: a) by adopting identical sampling techniques across Europe and b) by harmonizing the classification results of the national assessment systems. In addition, the need, in the intercalibration process, for a proper definition of the criteria for reference conditions is underlined. This is because their imprecision now represents one of the major weaknesses of the whole intercalibration process. Direct and indirect approaches to intercalibration are considered and commented on for their potential use in distinct circumstances. Finally, the use common metrics for the intercalibration process, which make comparability across Europe valid, is tested and indeed encouraged.

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