Methodology and Tasks

HYDRA will be implemented in three phases (Fig. 4):

  1. The first stage will involve the development of a Virtual Watershed (Task 1), the assessment of hydrological alteration (Task 2) and the characterisation of river ecosystem services (Task 3).
  2. The second part of the project will involve a study of the effects of hydrological regimen alteration due to dams and land uses on different levels of biological organization through a gradient and control-impact design (Task 4 and 5).
  3. The last part of the project will involve the dissemination and outreach of the project results (Task 6).
Task 1. Development of virtual watersheds and integration of biophysical information

Virtual Watersheds will be built using NetMap (; Benda et al. 2007) form a 5m DEM available for the whole Spain and feded with the most accurate climate, geological, topographic and Land Use spatial databases.

HYDRA will collect and add to its databases all the available biophysical spatial information covering hydrology, water quality, physical habitat characteristics and biological assemblages.

Subtask 1.1. Updating the existing Virtual Watersheds

Subtask 1.2. Compilation of biophysical information

Task 2. Hydrological characterisation and study design

HYDRA will use a new protocol to assess HA which will analyse the spatial patters on HA according to the hydrological classes of rivers and the size, management and location of reservoirs. HYDRA will use the information stored in the Virtual watersheds to construct gradients and control-impact designs in order to look for patterns of HA and to tease apart the effects of different dam operation practices and land use changes on different hydrological indices, respectively.

Subtask 2.1. Assessing Hydrological Alteration

Subtask 2.2. Constructing HA gradients and control-impact designs

Task 3. Ecosystem Service Valuation using the ARIES approach

HYDRA will use ARIES capabilities to analyse the spatial arrangement of service sources, flows and consumption and the trade-offs among catchment generated services (e.g., Irrigation, hydroelectric, drinking, agro-food production or forestry) versus riverine generated services (e.g., water purification, riparian woods growth, fishing, recreation). Riverine ecosystem services characterisation will be performed in the selected catchments along the HA gradient (subtask 2.2).

Subtask 3.1. Determining Ecosystem Service Spatial Arrangement and Trade-offs

Subtask 3.2. Coupling Ecosystem Service Analyses with Virtual Watersheds for Communicating Results

Task 4. Determining effects of HA on river biological communities and functioning

This task will look at how HA affects the structure and composition of different components of the river ecosystem. All the data used under this task is data that has already been taken by different water agencies and research centres and that has already been integrated in HYDRA databases within subtask 1.2. In addition, HYDRA will use the oxygen concentration data from the SAICA monitoring network and the open channel method to estimate both GPP, ER and Net Daily Metabolism

Subtask 4.1. Effects of HA on key river compartments

Subtask 4.2. Effects of HA on ecosystem metabolism

Task 5. Establishing cause-effect relationships on the effects of hydrological alteration through a multi-level approach

his task aims at obtaining a good representation of cases in which different types of HA (patterns from subtask 2.2) and representative cases within the control-impact design get a good cover of river response variables at different levels of biological organization. This task will allow to better understand how the effects of HA cascade up/down the river system affecting functioning and service provisioning.

Subtask 5.1. The characterisation of Metabolomics

Subtask 5.2. Characterisation of the biofilm community (Metagenomics)

Subtask 5.3. Characterisation of key species growth

Subtask 5.4. Characterisation of food webs

Subtask 5.5. Complementing with new river Metabolism data and accompanying variables

Subtask 5.6. From HA to riverine ecosystem services

Task 6. Transfer and dissemination of results

HYDRA contemplates the dissemination of the project results as an important part of the project. Dissemination activities include organization of a Kick-off meeting with relevant stakeholders and a final workshop with interested water administrations, dam operation companies, consultancies, and other scientists, the creation of a project web portal and participation in international congresses and publication of results in scientific journals.