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Over 200,000 kilometers of free-flowing river habitat in Europe is altered due to impoundments
Nature Communications, Volume: 14, Issue: 1
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European rivers are disconnected by more than one million man-made barriers that physically limit aquatic species migration and contribute to modification of freshwater habitats. Here, a Conceptual Habitat Alteration Model for Ponding is developed to aid in evaluating the effects of impoundments on...
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European rivers are disconnected by more than one million man-made barriers that physically limit aquatic species migration and contribute to modification of freshwater habitats. Here, a Conceptual Habitat Alteration Model for Ponding is developed to aid in evaluating the effects of impoundments on fish habitats. Fish communities present in rivers with low human impact and their broad environmental settings enable classification of European rivers into 15 macrohabitat types. These classifications, together with the estimated fish sensitivity to alteration of their habitat are used for assessing the impacts of six main barrier types (dams, weirs, sluices, culverts, fords, and ramps). Our results indicate that over 200,000 km or 10% of previously free-flowing river habitat has been altered due to impoundments. Although they appear less frequently, dams, weirs and sluices cause much more habitat alteration than the other types. Their impact is regionally diverse, which is a function of barrier height, type and density, as well as biogeographical location. This work allows us to foresee what potential environmental gain or loss can be expected with planned barrier management actions in rivers, and to prioritize management actions.
European rivers, impoundments, man-made barriers, aquatic species, freshwater habitats
Faculty of Science and Engineering
This work builds upon research carried out for the EU-funded projects Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers (AMBER, grant no. 689682) and Fishfriendly Innovative Technologies for Hydropower (FIThydro, grant no. 857851).