AMBER stands for Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers. The AMBER project seeks to apply adaptive management to the operation of dams and barriers in European rivers to achieve a more efficient restoration of stream connectivity, and address impacts caused by river fragmentation.
Rivers are some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world (Dudgeon et al. 2006), and are a major focus of restoration programmes in Europe (Buijse et al. 2002) and elsewhere (Bernhardt et al. 2005). One of the major challenges to achieve good status of EU rivers under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the fragmentation of stream habitats (EEA 2010, 2012) caused by tens of thousands of man-made barriers (Wilder et al. 2014), many of which date from a bygone era and are no longer in use. Abandoned weirs can sometimes pose a flood hazard with consequent social and economic costs. Reducing risks of flooding is certainly a priority in Europe as between 1998 and 2009 floods in Europe caused 1,126 deaths, displaced half a million people and cost €52 billion (EEA 2011). Improving stream connectivity has also been flagged as one of the priorities for more efficient stream restoration (Januchowski-Hartley et al. 2013; Grill et al. 2015).
However, many dams continue to perform essential functions for society. They support water abstraction for domestic and industrial use, facilitate navigation for commerce and trade, provide fishing and leisure opportunities (Kunz & Wüest 2014), and may also help to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) (Hein et al. 2011). Hydro-electric dams are also essential for meeting the EU’s 20% renewable energy consumption target for 2020, in line with the Renewable Energy Directive (EC 2009). Critically, current scenarios of climate change, coupled with increasing demands for hydro-power and water abstraction, will put more pressure on surface waters, particularly in the new EU-28 (EEA 2010), which will likely involve the construction of new low-head dams, as well as the rehabilitation of old, disused weirs (ESHA 2014). It is thus important that the various challenges presented by stream barriers are considered and resolved. There is no global database of stream barriers in Europe, but there are certainly many more than it is possible to mitigate for. Effective rehabilitation of river ecosystem functioning needs to take the complexity and trade-offs of stream barriers into account, as well as having a prioritization process in place.
AMBER proposes to address the challenge of river fragmentation through an adaptive management process (Hauser & Possingham 2008; Howes et al. 2010), whereby the results of barrier management are fed into the management process itself, thereby reducing uncertainty via system monitoring. Applying adaptive management to barrier mitigation involves the integration of programme design, management, and monitoring to systematically test assumptions, adapt and learn. The challenge is to find an optimal balance between gaining new knowledge on the benefits and impacts of barriers - to improve future river ecosystem restoration, and using current knowledge to achieve the most cost-effective management in the short term.
AMBER will serve to showcase what Europe can achieve in terms of international strategic collaboration, while knowledge transfer promoted through the consortium will help to overcome the innovation divide between regions.
AMBER will target one of the main limitations of current stream restoration efforts and will achieve a more effective restoration of river ecosystems, which is compatible with other water uses. This will improve energy security, help protect jobs, and boost European competitiveness, particularly in rural economies.
Conservation of Biodiversity
AMBER will have beneficial effects on the restoration of freshwater flora and fauna and will serve to protect global biodiversity in running waters by decreasing river fragmentation, promoting habitat connectivity, and evaluating the merits of different restoration actions through several quantified targets.
20 partners from 11 countries
Twenty active partners together form the AMBER consortium. They include large hydropower businesses, rivers authorities, non-governmental organisations, universities and the European Joint Research Centre.
These institutions are spread throughout Europe including Poland, Italy, Germany, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, France, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden. A large number of end-users have been identified representing stakeholder interests not only in every single European Member State, but also in European Free Trade Association countries.
AMBER also includes a ‘citizen science’ programme to involve authorities, NGOs and the public in data collection and dissemination.