Rivers rank among some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world, due in part to the fragmentation of habitats caused by tens of thousands of dams and weirs in our rivers. The main rivers in Europe are disconnected from the sea and this has had a catastrophic impact on many species, including some emblematic migratory fish species such as salmon or eel that, in some cases, have become extinct. Some barriers are old or out of use and need to be removed. But others provide energy, water, fishing and leisure opportunities.

AMBER (Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers) is a multidisciplinary research project funded by the European program Horizon 2020 with 6.2 million euros. Under the motto “Let It Flow”, the project promotes the adaptive management of man-made barriers to restore fluvial connectivity.

AMBER seeks to raise awareness of the problems generated by the fragmentation of river courses, the pressures on freshwater ecosystems, and the need for innovative solutions that minimize the environmental impacts and compatible economic aspects of water exploitation.

Led by the University of Swansea (Wales, United Kingdom), the consortium is composed of a total of 20 partners from 11 countries that includes academic institutions, public bodies, hydroelectric companies, water providers, NGOs, fishermen and local authorities, all of them committed to solving the challenge of river fragmentation and improving the management of barriers in the context of a more effective restoration of ecosystems and an optimization of natural capital.

The projects’ main outcomes are:

1. The first European Atlas of stream barriers in Europe (WP1) making use of a Citizen Science Programme (WP5). A new study reveals that the density of barriers in European rivers is much higher than indicated by available databases – up to one barrier in every kilometre of river. Information about the location and density of smaller barriers is often unknown, but these smaller barriers present the biggest problem for the health of Europe’s streams and rivers. Now, for the first time, scientists are inviting citizens to help in updating information about these barriers with the Barrier Tracker app (freely available from Google Play or Play Store).

AMBER encourages citizens to become involved in efforts to reconnect Europe’s rivers with the help of the Barrier Tracker app

2. A novel toolkit for assessing barrier impacts and their effects on freshwater organisms (WP2) using , created using cutting-edge advances in environmental DNA, use of drones and valuation of ecosystem services, to map the distribution of barriers and assess their effects on freshwater organisms.

3. A socio-economic evaluation of barriers impacts on Ecosystem Services (WP3)

4. Decision support tools for monitoring of restoration of stream connectivity (planning, mitigation, removal) (WP3) to understand peoples attitudes to barriers.

5. Guidance on barrier management and decision making for NGOs, regulators and industry incorporating: ecological impacts, cost-benefit analysis, sociological and economic factors, and ecological/economic modelling based on demonstration cases (WP4). AMBER will implement the tools developed in the project in nine real case scenarios scattered all around Europe.

Poutes Dam. River Allier (France). Before and after picture of the plans for the Poutes Dam

For more information, visit and contact us at https://amber.international

Rosa Olivo del Amo (World Fish Migration Foundation / Amber Project)