The water ecotope classification (WEC) has been developed as a tool for integrated water management in the Netherlands. The classification is based on abiotic processes, such as morphodynamics, hydrodynamics and land use, that determine the appearanceof the water systems. Abiotic conditional factors were selected to represent these processes in the classification, due to their stability, measurability and manageability. For lakes, canals, rivers, transitional waters and coastal waters, system-specific classifications have been made, each resulting in 20-80 spatially defined, abiotic and biotic more or less homogeneous units. Each ecotope is described in terms of its position in the landscape, abiotic conditions and processes, ecological processes and dominant biotic groups. Ecotopes are mapped every eight years in the large water bodies on a scale of 1 : 10 000. Ecotopes are used in national policy analysis and regional studies to portray alternative spatial configurations, and they serve as input for hydrological and ecological models to analyse effects on water levels and habitat suitability. The success of ecotopes is due to the fact that they provide a common language for different disciplines, since the concept is used both by hydrologists and ecologists as well as by scientists and decision makers.
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