CROSSLINK: Cross-habitat linkages between stream and riparian habitats

Last changed: 22 January 2024

Aquatic-terrestrial and longitudinal linkages in stream networks are essential for sustaining biodiversity and key ecosystem services. They are however affected by human activities that degrade these coupled ecosystems. CROSSLINK aimed at improving the understanding of these areas and resulted in support for better management of the land-water interface.


Stream-riparian networks are key components of green and blue infrastructure (GBI) that underpin landscape integrity by transporting nutrients, regulating floods, buffering human impacts, and supplying fresh water. Unfortunately, stream-riparian networks are also subject to multiple human pressures (e.g. from hydropower and agriculture) that affect longitudinal and lateral connectivity, driving habitat and diversity losses, threatening ecosystem services, and causing stakeholder conflicts. Thus, understanding the importance of connectivity within these networks, and applying this understanding in managing stream-riparian GBI for both natural values and societal needs is essential.

Project Aims and case studies

CROSSLINK aimed to evaluate how the extent, spatial arrangement, and connectivity of riparian-stream GBI affects biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services, and resilience indicators in forested, urban and rural settings.

CROSSLINK was also aimed to produce an optimization framework capable of balancing multiple values, uses and needs with longer term adaptive capacity and resilience in riparian-stream GBI.

Feld studies was conducted in four case-study basins:

  • Norway (forested and urban stream reaches in the Oslo Fjord basin),
  • Sweden (forested and agricultural stream reaches in the Lake Mälaren basin),
  • Belgium (forested, agricultural and urban reaches in the Scheldt river basin), and
  • Romania (forested and agricultural reaches in catchments of the Arges steppes).

Main activities and key outcomes

CROSSLINK analysed existing data and conducted extensive novel and spatially explicit field studies. A portfolio of key ecosystem assets for stream-riparian networks was constructed, comprising biodiversity, ecosystem processes and services, and flood protection and resilience properties.

Relationships between the portfolio elements, spatial connectivity, and human impacts were analysed and incorporated into an optimisation platform, which identified spatial configurations and strategies for GBI that minimize management trade-offs and maximize multifunctionality. CROSSLINK main findings were thus translated into a learning-based environment allowing stakeholder analysis of tradeoffs/synergies between multiple values/goals in the management and design of stream-riparian GBI.

List of publications on the research results (

Project partners in CROSSLINK

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences - Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment

Ghent University, Belgium - Applied Ecology and Environmental Biology

Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research, Germany - Computational Landscape Ecology

Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)

University of Bucharest, Romania - Department of Systems Ecology and Sustainability



CROSSLINK is funded through BiodivERsA, under the Horizon 2020 ERA-NET COFUND scheme.

Full project title: CROSSLINK - Understanding cross-habitat linkages between blue and green infrastructure to optimize management of biodiversity, ecosystem services and multiple human uses

Keywords: Riparian-stream, green-blue infrastructure, biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services, resilience, ecological connectivity, optimal solutions, portfolio, learning environment