The WEQUAL project: An innovative method for river ecological quality assessment
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In the recent years there has been an increasing interest on green infrastructures and river environments as stated in different EU policies (green infrastructure and biodiversity) and directives (WFD, Flood directive). In particular, attention to ecological quality, biodiversity and riparian functionality has become a key issue for all the technicians – engineers, ecologists, landscape architects and administrators - involved in river management. Monitoring the evolution of restoration works, as well as changes connected to river training works, is useful to evaluate their effectiveness and impacts. The environmental quality assessment of riparian and river zones is the aim of the innovative methodology now under development within the EU-project (FESR South Tyrol) WEQUAL - WEb service centre for a QUALity multidimensional design and tele-operated monitoring of Green Infrastructures. It is based on ecological indicators derived mainly from LiDAR data, RGB and multispectral images collected by several sensors mounted on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). Biomass, canopy cover, vegetation height/distribution/continuity, river morphology and riparian zone width are examined in order to evaluate the sustainability, biodiversity, landscape connectivity and carbon sequestration capacity of the monitored habitat. Forecast on the environmental development after river works construction is examined as well, aiming at supporting technicians and administrators in evaluating impacts ex-ante and ex-post, providing an easy and time-cost-effective tool.