This report summaries work undertaken by Natural England and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, in collaboration with the Environment Agency, to develop proposals for a framework to monitor and assess the status of priority freshwater habitats in England. It forms part of a series of actions arising from Biodiversity 2020 to refine the strategy for conserving priority freshwater habitats.
The work takes as its foundation the concept of natural ecosystem function (described in detail in the ‘freshwater and wetland habitat narrative’, Mainstone et al. 2016), which underpins the health of all freshwater habitats whether they are specially protected sites, priority freshwater habitats, waterbodies designated under the EU Water Framework Directive, or any combination of these. The report seeks to provide a framework for assessing key aspects of natural ecosystem function, harmonising with recent work to map priority freshwater habitats and bring greater clarity to the conservation strategy for the freshwater SSSI series.