Biophysical environment


The biophysical environment is the biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism or population, and consequently includes the factors that have an influence in their survival, development and evolution. The biophysical environment can vary in scale from microscopic to global in extent. It can also be subdivided according to its attributes. Examples include the marine environment, the atmospheric environment and the terrestrial environment. The number of biophysical environments is countless, given that each living organism has its own environment.

The symbiosis between the physical environment and the biological life forms within the environment includes all variables that comprise the Earth’s biosphere.

The  biophysical  environment  can  be  divided  into  two  categories:  the  natural  environment  and  the built environment with some overlap between the two. Following the industrial revolution the built environment has become an increasingly significant part of the Earth's environment.

The scope of the biophysical environment is all that contained in the biosphere, which is that part of the Earth in which all life occurs.

When narrowed down to the aquatic environment, and particularly in the context of the Water Framework Directive, these are often  referred  to  as  water  quality,  water  quantity  and  hydromorphology.



A mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of an area of soil. Its purpose is any or all of the following:

·       to conserve moisture

·       to improve the fertility and health of the soil

·       to reduce weed growth

·       to enhance the visual appeal of the area

Mulching as NWRM is using organic material (e.g. bark, wood chips, grape pulp, shell nuts, green waste, leftover crops, compost, manure, straw, dry grass, leaves etc.) to cover the surface of the soil. It may be applied to bare soil, or around existing plants. Mulches of manure or compost will be incorporated naturally into the soil by the activity of worms and other organisms. The process is used both in commercial crop production and in gardening, and when applied correctly can dramatically improve the capacity of soil to store water.

Water retention


Water retention covers a wide set of mechanisms (see synthesis document n°1) the effect of which are to increase the capture of water by aquifers, soil, and aquatic and water dependent ecosystems.
More precisely it refers to capabilities of catchments (including wetlands, rivers and floodplains but also other land areas) to hold or retain as much water as possible during periods of abundant or even excessive precipitation, so that water is available for use during dry periods and runoff peaks are minimized.

Urban Planning


Within the framework of natural water retention measures (NWRM), urban planning refers to the application of the "Grey to Green" principle within cities. The specific focus of urban planning for NWRM is to achieve sustainable water management by mimicking natural functions and processes in the urban environment.



Phosphates from agriculture are an important contributor to phosphorus loading on water bodies. Phosphorus is considered to be a limiting factor in the process of eutrophication that can generally be regarded as the enrichment of surface waters by nutrients which causes overgrowth of algae and weeds. The result is deoxygenation of waters that can kill fish and other aquatic life. Algae growth can also be a hazard to human health.



Nitrate, NO-3, is the main nitrogen containing anion occurring in the soil. It is very soluble and moves freely in water through the soil profile. Nitrate in water is a pollutant above certain concentrations and can be a danger to human health. The main source of nitrate in water is agriculture although sewage discharges can also be an important factor.

Forest Harvesting


Forest harvesting can cause severe disruptions to the hydrologic cycle. Clearcut areas are often subject to localized flooding due to reductions in evapotranspiration caused by removal of trees. Roads and other infrastructure needed to support forest harvesting can also be significant sources of sediment to surface waters. However, negative effects can be minimized when forest harvesting is performed in a water-sensitive manner and measures are taken to maintain the natural hydrological functioning of the landscape.



A gabion (from Italian gabbione meaning "big cage"; from Italian gabbia and Latin cavea meaning "cage") is a cage, cylinder, or box filled with rocks, concrete, or sometimes sand and soil for use in civil engineering, road building, and military applications.

Infiltration Trenches


Shallow excavations filled with gravel or other material to create temporary storage and to enhance the natural capacity of the ground to infiltrate. Infiltration trenches would typically be used to intercept surface runoff drainage (e.g. drainage from roof or other impervious areas) or to convey water towards a detention pond.
- Based on Stella definitions, adapted by NWRM project experts and validated by the European Commission