Publications on River Restoration in Europe

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A comprehensive assessement of stream fragmentation in Great Britain


  • Ground truthed first assessment of stream fragmentation across Great Britain.
  • Existing barrier databases underestimate stream fragmentation by at least 68%. 
  • There is at least one artificial barrier every 1.5 km of stream in Great Britain. 
  • Only 3.3% of the total river network of Great Britain is fully connected. Only 1% of the rivers in England, Scotland and Wales are free of artificial barriers.

Download: A comprehensive Assessment  of stream fragmentation in  Great Britain.pdf


Artificial barriers are one of the main threats to river ecosystems, resulting in habitat fragmentation and loss of connectivity. Yet, the abundance and distribution of most artificial barriers, excluding high-head dams, is poorly documented. We provide a comprehensive assessment of the distribution and typology of artificial barriers in Great Britain, and estimate for the first time the extent of river fragmentation. To this end, barrier datawere compiled fromexisting databases andwere ground-truthed by field surveys in England, Scotland andWales to derive a correction factor for barrier density across Great Britain. Field surveys indicate that existing barrier databases underestimate barrier density by 68%, particularly in the case of low-head structures (b1 m) which are often missing fromcurrent records. Field-corrected barrier density estimates ranged from0.48 barriers/kmin Scotland to 0.63 barriers/kminWales, and 0.75 barriers/kmin England. Corresponding estimates of streamfragmentation byweirs and dams only,measured asmean barrier-free length,were 12.30 kmin Scotland, 6.68 km inWales and 5.29 km in England, suggesting the extent of river modification differs between regions. Our study indicates that 97% of the river network in Great Britain is fragmented and b1% of the catchments are free of artificial barriers.

© 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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