Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers

Create The first assessment of stream connectivity across Europe to highlight where restoration is most needed.
Make the first application of eDNA for river restoration to help prioritize areas for conservation and barrier management.
Develop a holistic framework and associated tools for guiding the restoration of local river ecosystems.
Provide opportunities for real time monitoring using citizen science.

Improving stream connectivity has been flagged as one of the priorities for more efficient stream restoration. And one of the major challenges to overcome to achieve 'good status' under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the fragmentation of stream habitats. This fragmentation is mainly caused by tens of thousands of man-made barriers, many of which are old and no longer in use.
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, and may also help to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. 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.

Critically, current scenarios of climate change, coupled with increasing demands for hydro-power and water abstraction, will likely involve the construction of new dams, as well as the rehabilitation of old, abandoned weirs. 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. In this process, the results of barrier management are fed into the management process itself-- reducing uncertainty via system monitoring. Adaptive management 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 of 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.

Transnational Cooperation

The AMBER team.