Facilitating political decisions using species distribution models to assess restoration measures in heavily modified estuaries
The European Water Framework Directive requires a good ecological potential for heavily modified water bodies. This standard has not been reached for most large estuaries by 2015. Management plans for estuaries fall short in linking implementations between restoration measures and underlying spatial analyses. The distribution of emergent macrophytes – as an indicator of habitat quality – is here used to assess the ecological potential. Emergent macrophytes are capable of settling on gentle tidal flats where hydrodynamic stress is comparatively low. Analyzing their habitats based on spatial data, we set up species distribution models with ‘elevation relative to mean high water’, ‘mean bank slope’, and ‘length of bottom friction’ from shallow water up to the vegetation belt as key predictors representing hydrodynamic stress. Effects of restoration scenarios on habitats were assessed applying these models. Our findings endorse species distribution models as crucial spatial planning tools for implementing restoration measures in modified estuaries.