Włocławek Dam, River Vistula, Poland
Poutès Dam, River Allier, France
February 13, 2019
Small Barriers in Denmark and the UK
November 22, 2017
Case Study Number: 5
Dam name: Włocławek Dam
River name: Vistula
River extension: 1,020Km
RIVER surface area: 194,000 Km2
Built date: 1969
Hydropower concession: 1956
Status: Active, concession to 2075
AMBER TOOLS: MesoHABSIM (D2.6), Fish Habitat Modelling and Mapping (D2.1), Sediment Dynamics Modelling (D2.4), Drone Survey (D2.4), Molecular Toolkit (D2.5)


The River Vistula is one of the last large European rives with substantial stretches of its lower and middle course preserved in close to natural or slightly modified morphological conditions.

It was historically a main migration path in Poland for several diadromous fish species: sea trout (Salmo trutta m. trutta L.), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.), Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus Mitchill 1815), and migratory populations vimba bream (Vimba vimba (L.), as well as river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis L.). In the past, these species reached the tributaries of the upper Vistula - Dunajec, Raba, Soła, Skawa, Wisłok, San and the tributaries of lower and middle Vistula River: Drwęca, Brda, Wierzyca, Bug and Narew, where spawning took place.

The Włocławek dam had a crucial impact on migratory fish species in the Vistula river system Populations of sea trout, vimba and potamodromous species, like asp and barbell, declined seriously after dam construction, while sturgeon and Atlantic salmon were extinct in the Vistula river catchment a few decades earlier due to overfishing and water pollution. Since then, large reintroduction programmes have attempted to rehabilitate the extinct and endangered diadromous species, with some success so far.


  • Reduction in habitat
  • River fragmentation
  • Reduction in edemic species populations


A new dam is being planned downstream of the Włocławek dam, aimed at hydraulically supporting the existing dam and stopping bottom erosion. The ecological effects of Włocławek dam opening to fish migration and a possible new-build barrier impact were studied and modelled within this case study. Tools developed by AMBER were applied as decision support for management of the middle River Vistula stretch, crucial for migratory fish restoration in the whole catchment.

This study carried out fish habitat availability studies conducted below and upstream of the Włocławek dam combined with measurements of physical conditions, studied the effect of fish migration through the Włocławek Dam’s newly reconstructed fish passage, modelled the ecological effects of Włocławek dam opening to fish migration and effects of probable new-build barrier and used tools developed by AMBER (aerial imaging, habitat maps, habitat suitability models, e–DNA study) as decision support for management of the middle Vistula River stretch and for migratory fish restoration in the whole catchment.


  • MesoHABSIM (D2.6)
  • Fish Habitat Modelling and Mapping (D2.1)
  • Sediment Dynamics Modelling (D2.4)
  • Drone Survey (D2.4)
  • Molecular Toolkit (D2.5)


It is clear that the large impoundment beyond Włocławek dam has a significant impact on up and downstream habitats. The major mechanism is the modification of habitat structure, which leads to alteration of fish communities from riverine to pond preferring species. This is observed up and downstream of the dam. Our fish observations confirm this conclusion as the fish community structure strongly resembles the habitat structure of the impounded area. However, it needs to be remembered that the electrofishing sample was not supported by net gear samples and therefore the deep and fast-flowing areas are underrepresented in the data. Still, the resemblance is too high for this shortcoming to completely undermine the conclusion.

Alternatives for improving fish passage through adaptive management include a universal fishpass on the left side of the power plant; the use of the navigation lock as a fish pass; installation of a lift for fish; use of the Zuzanka Channel as a bypass of the Włocławek dam.


The Włocławek Dam case study was carried out by AMBER Partner SSIFI (Stanisław Sakowicz Inland Fisheries Institute, Poland).


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