When protecting rivers, there is strength in numbers
Fully funded 1 year research scholarship
May 29, 2019
First AMBER results as call for European action
June 11, 2019

In Spain, many, if not all of their rivers are fragmented by dams and other barriers. While current barrier databases show where some of the dams are located, this is not the full picture. Smaller barriers such as weirs, culverts and fords are crucially missing. Without understanding the full scope of the problem, Spain may have difficulty restoring these once vibrant ecosystems back to life and health.

For this and many other reasons, Sara Garrido from the organization AEMS Rios con Vida, has worked very hard over the course of her career to protect these earth veins. Sara states, “We don’t know the status of our rivers here in Spain. It is extremely important to get this information so we can prioritize efforts to make the most difference with our restoration initiatives and investments.”

Sara works as a technician for the AMBER project but tries her hand at anything to make sure her team is spreading the word about the AMBER project. She reaches out to organizations, universities, government entities, private parties and other river lovers to help with dissemination of our information (tools, results, published papers, newsletters etc.) and is also reaching out to forestry departments and visitor centers encouraging them to use the barrier tracker!

She appreciates that the barrier tracker gives the opportunity for her and others to contribute to a higher cause at a pan-European scale. By working for and with AMBER, Sara revealed she feels part of a larger community that is working and contributing to make a bad situation better and even improving it. By gathering this citizen science data, she hopes Spanish policy makers can begin to see just how fragmented the rivers are and prioritize restoring them.

With part of her team from Rios con Vida, she also often participates or organizes workshops with other local organizations to teach them about AMBER and the barrier tracker application. From many of her field excursions, she and her team were able to make educational videos about river restoration and barrier information! Just last month, Sara helped organize an educational workshop and field trip for the staff of visitors centers in Madrid. The staff had the opportunity to learn about local barriers, barrier management and riverine environments and now these staff are starting to work on educational programs to teach their visitors about these issues as well.

“River conservation and adaptive management is needed all over the world, not just in Spain. There are many initiatives from local associations to bring rivers back to life and we need to work together to show politicians and hydroelectrical companies that we all want better rivers and need them. Summing our efforts and fighting for rivers together is the most important work we can engage in. This is why I think AMBER is so great—it unifies different countries and stakeholders (including hydropower companies) to join forces for the same cause. Now, I know what is happening all over Europe; whereas, maybe I would not have known otherwise.”

Sara is a great AMBERssador that we are fortunate enough to have on our team! In total, she and the AEMS Rios con Vida team have already organized 23 events for over 820 people and participated in TV debates (with approximately 35.000 viewers) to help disseminate AMBER information. Sara, personally, has even had the time to track 19 barriers! She laughs that she made her sisters and husband download the app and is still working on her dad.

Thanks to AMBERssadors like Sara and the AEMS Rios con Vida team, we may be able to have a clearer picture of the number of barriers within Spain and have more like-minded people helping to spread the word about AMBER and barrier management.