We begin our review of the literature in the Christmas issue of Water Matters with an intriguing report on the expanding Polish range of the water cattail, a species previously considered rare and protected. Is this good news? – read for yourself. We also present methodological papers on new techniques for monitoring, modeling and assessing the aquatic environment. It will be about drones and decision trees. Also learn about a new technology for recovering fertilizer from livestock waste, and the dangers to drinking water from using plastic pipes to distribute it.

1. Native recovery or expansive threat? Past and predicted distribution of Trapa natans L. s.. l. on northern limit of species’ range – Handout for species management

Walusiak E., Krztoń W., Cieślak E., Szczepaniak M., Wilk-Woźniak E. (2024). Ecological Indicators, 158, 111349,

Increasingly, we are hearing that more species are retreating or going extinct as a result of human pressure. If there are already reports that one is spreading, it’s usually an alien invasive species. Information about the unexpected expansion of native species, to include protected and rare species, is among the unprecedented phenomena, like the sun in November. Therefore, the reports of a team of Polish scientists from the Institute of Nature Protection of the Polish Academy of Sciences about the increasing range of a rare and strictly protected aquatic plant species – Trapa natans anchovy – are all the more welcome. Based on an analysis of published data on the distribution of the species in Poland over four periods (pre-1950, 1950-1980, 1980-2000 and 2000 to now), the authors found a rapid spread of the species, which they link to rising temperatures. Predictive models, developed for three 20-year intervals through 2080, make it possible to forecast the further spread of anchovy in European and Asian waters. The work points to the unpredictable effects of climate change, which may lead to changes in the behavioral trends of species and, consequently, the need to verify their endangered status.

2. Drones in fish fauna assessment of rivers. Ecohydrology & Hydrobiology

Suska K., (2023). Drones in fish fauna assessment of rivers. Ecohydrology & Hydrobiology,

The need to peep, explore and monitor the aquatic environment is linked to the development of new research methods and technologies. One promising technique that has been gaining increasing interest in recent years and can be successfully used to acquire environmental data is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones. The journal Ecohydrology & Hydrobiology has just published a paper on the possibility of using them to identify ichthyofauna habitats in large lowland rivers. This work is of particular importance in the context of the need to restore the river ecosystem after the ecological disaster that hit the Oder River in the summer of 2022.

The paper analyzes remote sensing data acquired with drones from the lower Vistula River area at three different water levels, supplemented with depth and flow velocity measurements from a boat, using the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) method. Based on the acquired images, an orthophotomosaic is created, which, together with hydrological observations, is used to identify in a GIS environment the distribution of hydromorphological units according to the principles of the Mesohabitat Simulation method(MesoHABSIM). The developed and described algorithm of the procedure made it possible to map habitats in a large, deep river with opaque water. Drones provide high-resolution imaging information that cannot be obtained with available mapping materials. It also confirmed the validity of using the incomparably cheaper ADCP technology compared to laser technology. The proposed technique definitely deserves attention and more widespread implementation in environmental quality monitoring, especially in large lowland rivers, very difficult to monitor by traditional methods. It also has great potential for work on restoration and management of river ichthyofauna.

3. New tools and recommendations for a better management of harmful algal blooms under the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Sagarminaga Y., Garcés E., Francé J., et al. (2023) New tools and recommendations for a better management of harmful algal blooms under the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Front. Ocean Sustain.

Staying for a moment more on the topics of condition assessment and management tools for water resources, it is worth presenting an interesting approach to support the achievement of the goals of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) for ensuring good ecological status (GES), presented at Frontiers in Ocean Sustainability. A team of dozens of scientists has proposed a tool to manage the phenomenon of harmful algal blooms (known as “algae blooms”). HABs from harmful algal blooms) in marine waters. It is based on two components: the GES4HABs decision tree (GES for HABs) and the MAMBO decision support matrix (environMental mAtrix for the Management of BlOoms). The GES4HAB decision tree defines a sequence of steps to identify HAB management strategies according to their intensity and causes. In turn, the two-dimensional MAMBO matrix, which determines the relationship between trophic status and the level of anthropogenic pressure, makes it possible to define marine areas with different management effectiveness. The paper also presents and analyzes a number of indicators, monitoring methods and initiatives that may be relevant to support the assessment of HABs, the pressures that cause them and environmental impacts in the context of RDMS reporting. This work provides new comprehensive solutions to support marine environmental quality management and definitely deserves the attention of water managers.

4. What happens when salinization meets eutrophication? A test using stream microcosms

Moyano Salcedo A.J., Prat N., Bertrans-Tubau L., et al. (2024). What happens when salinization meets eutrophication? A test using stream microcosms. Science Of The Total Environment, 912, 168824.

For those who are following the issue of salt’s impact on the aquatic environment, I recommend another paper exploring the interactive effects of eutrophication and salinity on the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. Due to the anthropogenic nature of impacts, such as agriculture and urbanization, these two pressures usually affect waters simultaneously, and for effective management it is essential to understand their interactions. This phenomenon was investigated by a team of scientists from Spain in an experiment involving 18 river microcosms, using six combinations of different concentrations of nutrients (ammonium nitrogen and phosphate phosphorus) and salts (chloride ions). Their effects on the phytobenthic assemblage (biofilm) and benthic macroinvertebrates were analyzed. After 14 days of exposure, the researchers found an increase in chlorophyll a biofilm concentration in all combinations, although the relationship was not linear. There has also been a change in taxonomic composition – diatoms and green algae have been replaced by cyanobacteria. The increase in nutrient concentrations promoted algal growth, while the salt appeared to inhibit it, suggesting potential interactive effects, although the researchers point to the need for further studies at the level of biofilm species. Salt pollution mainly affected benthic macroinvertebrates and led to a very strong decline in the richness and diversity of this assemblage. The effects of salt were less at higher water fertility, i.e. Higher concentrations of nutrients appear to mitigate the negative effects of salinity. This phenomenon may have been directly related to the biofilm response, as the greater diversity and quality of the food base promotes increased animal resistance to the toxic effects of salinity. Both structural equation models and biotic-abiotic interaction networks have confirmed this, indicating that complex species interactions can modulate the response of biological assemblages to environmental interactions. The authors of the paper emphasize that the key to understanding the effects of nutrients and salinity on communities is the ecological interactions between different trophic levels.

5. electrochemical ammonia recovery and co-production of chemicals from manure wastewater

Wang R., Yang K., Wong C., et al. (2023). Electrochemical ammonia recovery and co-production of chemicals from manure wastewater. Nat Sustain

Each year, livestock farms around the world generate more than 3 billion tons of animal manure. Wastewater of this origin contains large amounts of ammonia, is a significant source of water pollution and poses a serious threat to aquatic ecosystems. Ammonia is an important nitrogen fertilizer, so its efficient recovery from manure wastewater would bring many benefits, both from the perspective of pollution control and nutrient reuse. It turns out that it is possible to develop recycling technology that will reduce this environmental burden while generating profits.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States have developed a method for breaking down organic nutrients from animal feces into valuable substances using electricity. They used a potassium-nickel hexacyanoferrate (KNiHCF) ion-selective electrode that oxidizes organic matter and captures ammonium (NH4+) and potassium (K+) ions in manure wastewater. Then, in the KNiHCF electrode regeneration process, by electrosynthesis of hydrogenH2 or hydrogen peroxide H2O2, nitrogen and potassium are captured and concentrated, leading to the formation of valuable fertilizers. Preliminary projections, published in Nature Sustainability, suggest that in most cases the value of the recovered chemicals is higher than the cost of using the technology, ensuring that its implementation in agriculture is cost-effective. This approach, of course, also has weaknesses. KNiHCF electrodes degrade with repeated use, and this is a problem that still needs to be solved. In addition, the cost-effectiveness of the method is strongly dependent on the cost of electricity. Scientists assume that they can be lowered by using renewable energy sources. Wind and solar farms often generate more electricity than the transmission grid can handle, which could be used for the technology presented. The economic analysis must also take into account the environmental benefits of reducing its nutrient load. Taking into account the efficiency of the entire process, the authors say, electrochemical processing can capture nearly 70 percent of the of ammonia contained in manure and by this amount reduce the emission of this compound from farms into the environment.

6. chemical and microbiological safety of drinking water in distribution networks made of plastic pipes

Świetlik J., Magnucka M., (2023). Chemical and microbiological safety of drinking water in distribution networks made of plastic pipes. WIREs Water, e1704.

Ensuring access to good quality water is, of course, not only a matter of maintaining the right environment, but also of providing adequate infrastructure. In recent years, metal alloys used in drinking water distribution are gradually being replaced by PVC and HDPE pipes. However, in the areas of distribution networks made of plastic, there are often complaints from consumers who indicate that the organoleptic parameters of the water have deteriorated. The studies available in the literature on the risks of PE and PVC pipes are mainly based on model analyses. What is lacking, however, is work that complimentarily captures all the phenomena occurring in water pipes made of plastic. Filling this gap in knowledge has been undertaken by two chemists from the University of St. Thomas. Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, who presented the results of an extensive literature review on the current state of knowledge of the phenomena and processes occurring in PE and PVC pipes in service, in the pages of WIRES Water. Published reports point to disturbing phenomena in plastic pipes, such as oxidative aging of polymers, degradation of antioxidant coatings, release of organic compounds into water, and surface damage and scaling that promote the formation of microplastic particles. PE and PVC networks are also susceptible to biofilm formation. As a result of chemical and biological processes occurring on the inner walls of the transmission pipes, the quality of the water deteriorates. Plastic pipes also have a high failure rate, related to the aging of polymeric materials under operating conditions. The review indicates the importance of the quality of materials used in the production of pipes for the safety and quality of drinking water in distribution networks, and identifies areas that require further analysis to ensure that consumers receive a product of sufficiently high quality.

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