Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers
This 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.
We target the main limitations of current stream restoration efforts to achieve a more effective restoration of river ecosystems that is compatible with other water uses. This will improve energy security, help protect jobs, and boost European competitiveness, particularly in rural economies.
AMBER will have beneficial effects on the restoration of freshwater flora and fauna. The project 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.
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.
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. The team showcases 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 also includes a ‘citizen science’ programme to involve authorities, NGOs and the public in data collection and dissemination.