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.

Low Impact Development


LID is a toolbox of site-scale practices that the site designer and developer can utilize to:

  • manage urban rainfall where it occurs for minimized stormwater concentration and runoff
  • potentially lower short-term and long-term development costs
  • improve water quality
  • enhance natural habitat and flood control
  • improve green space aesthetics and potentially increase property values
  • increase community quality of life and livability

There are many practices that are used to support these benefits, including bioretention systems, rain gardens, vegetated rooftops, bioswales, rain barrels, and permeable pavements to name a few. By implementing LID principles and practices, water can be managed in a way that reduces the impact of built areas on the environment while providing numerous additional benefits. (source: LID symposium).

    This concept is very similar to NWRM in the United States context. It is very connected to Green Infrastructure. See also the link to US EPA green infrastructure website.

    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.



    Areas that are inundated by surface or ground water with frequency sufficient to support a prevalence of vegetative or aquatic life that requires saturated or seasonally saturated soil conditions for growth or reproduction.
    Wetlands provide both stormwater attenuation and treatment, comprising shallow ponds and marshy areas covered in aquatic vegetation.ᅠ Wetlands detain flows for an extended period to allow sediments to settle and to remove contaminants.ᅠ They also provide runoff attenuation and can provide significant ecological benefits.

    Wetland (measure)


    Wetlands restoration and creation can involve: technical, spatially large-scale measures (including the installation of ditches for rewetting or the cutback of dykes to enable flooding); technical small-scale measures such as clearing trees; as well as changes in land-use and agricultural measures, such as adapting cultivation practices in wetland areas.ᅠ Wetland restoration can improve the hydrological regime of degraded wetlands and generally enhance habitat quality. (Creating artificial or constructed wetlands in urban areas can also contribute to flood attenuation, water quality improvement and habitat and landscape enhancement).
    - Based on Stella definitions, adapted by NWRM project experts and validated by the European Commission

    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.

    Trees in urban areas


    Urban planning that incorporates trees can have multiple benefits. Trees in urban areas have multiple benefits including increased infiltration and other benefits including shade and amenity value.
    - Elaborated by NWRM project experts, validated by th European Commission

    Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR)


    MAR is the purposeful recharge of water to aquifers for subsequent recovery and environmental benefit. Within the context of urban environment, MAR covers the injection and infiltration of captured stormwater ヨ as such, it is linked to SuDS measures such as rainwater harvesting and infiltration techniques, but worth differentiating as a case where the primary purpose is to increase recharge to aquifers in addition to attenuating surface runoff,Mechanisms used to undertake the recharge should be highlighted. In this respect one can envisage:(i) surface structures to facilitate/augment recharge (such as soakways and infiltration basins);(ii) subsurface indirect recharge - artificial recharge is undertaken through wells drilled within the unsaturated zone;(iii) subsurface direct recharge - artificial recharge is undertaken through wells reaching the saturated zone.The regulatory approach to be adopted for each of the above three mechanisms could differ considerably, due to the fact that the level of natural protection to groundwater is vastly different for each of the mechanisms.
    - Based on Stella definitions, adapted by NWRM project experts and validated by the European Commission

    Natural bank stabilisation


    In the past, various activities were undertaken to straighten rivers, such as the stabilisation of river banks with concrete or other types of retention walls.ᅠ Such actions limited riversメ natural movements, leading to degradation of the river, increased water flow, increased erosion and decreased biodiversity.ᅠ Natural bank stabilisation reverses such activities, allowing rivers to move more freely.ᅠ Where bank stabilisation is nevertheless necessary, such as in residential areas, natural materials such as roots or gravel can be used.ᅠ Natural materials are preferable as they allow water to infiltrate into the bank.ᅠ They also provide better living conditions for aquatic fauna.
    - Based on Stella definitions, adapted by NWRM project experts and validated by the European Commission