Skip to main content
Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Rethinking ecosystem service indicators for their application to intermittent rivers

Pastor, A., V; Tzoraki, O.; Bruno, D.; Kaletova, T.; Mendoza-Lera, C.; Alamanos, A.; Brummer, M.; Datry, T.; De Girolamo, A. M.; Jakubinsky, J.; Logar, I; Loures, L.; Ilheu, M.; Koundouri, P.; Nunes, J. P.; Quintas-Soriano, C.; Sykes, T.; Truchy, A.; Tsani, S.; Jorda-Capdevila, D.


In these times of strong pressure on aquatic ecosystems and water resources due to climate change and water abstraction, intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams (IRES) (rivers that periodically cease to flow and/or dry) have become valuable assets. Indeed, not only do they supply water but they also offer services for humanity. Despite a growing recognition towards IRES, information for assessing their ecosystem services (ES) remains scarce. In a first step, an international interdisciplinary group of researchers developed a methodological framework to acknowledge ES provided by IRES using 109 indicators. A subset of selected ES indicators was then applied to two case studies: the Rio Seco in the Algarve (Portugal) and the Giofyros River in Crete (Greece). This paper discusses the applicability of these indicators, including the temporal and spatial variability of IRES flow regimes. Aspects of the framework, such as the methods and time required for data collection, the nature (de-mand or supply) and functionality of each indicator are discussed. The new framework accounts for flow intermittence in ES analyses and can help scientists and water managers to i) increase the ease and justification for IRES use in management approaches and ii) improve their conservation and restoration with a comprehensive set of appropriate indicators for IRES. In addition, the comprehensive nature of the proposed indicators ensures that they can be understood by a broad audience and easily applicable. Since they were designed through a public participation process, the setting has been prepared for holistic stakeholder analysis and education around IRES functions and associated ES. From a management point of view, it would be particularly relevant to perform an economic evaluation with this new framework to understand the value of each ES category and their tradeoffs. For the scientific community, however, it is important to consider public preferences to design socially accepted policies. The proposed indicators can successfully bridge these elements, hereby establishing a solid basis for the assessment of ES provided by IRES.


Ecosystem services; Hydrological phases; Intermittent rivers; Temporary rivers River management Flow; regime; Indicators

Published in

Ecological Indicators
2022, volume: 137, article number: 108693
Publisher: ELSEVIER

Authors' information

Pastor, A.
Pastor, A.
Universidade de Lisboa
Tzoraki, O.
University of Aegean
Bruno, D.
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC)
Kaletova, T.
Slovak University of Agriculture Nitra
Mendoza-Lera, C.
University of Koblenz and Landau
Alamanos, A.
Dundalk Institute of Technology
Brummer, M.
University of Bayreuth
Datry, T.
De Girolamo, A. M.
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR)
Jakubinsky, J.
Global Change Research Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Logar, I
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG)
Loures, L.
Instituto Politecnico de Portalegre
Ilheu, M.
University of Evora
Koundouri, P.
Athens University of Economics and Business
Nunes, J. P.
Universidade de Lisboa
Nunes, J. P.
Wageningen University and Research
Quintas-Soriano, C.
Universidad de Almeria
Sykes, T.
University of Southampton
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water
SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences
Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)