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When unlocking rivers results in building more infrastructure: A group mental model shares lessons from weir remediation in the United Kingdom

Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley, Merryn Thomas, Rochelle Bristol, Morena Mills

Conservation Science and Practice, Volume: 6, Issue: 3

Swansea University Authors: Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley, Merryn Thomas, Rochelle Bristol

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DOI (Published version): 10.1111/csp2.13081

Abstract

The last several decades have seen a rise in efforts to remove weirs, but there is little research investigating how projects are carried out, potential areas for improvement, or sharing of lessons to facilitate reconnection of more rivers. The aim of the study presented here was to explore how peop...

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Published in: Conservation Science and Practice
ISSN: 2578-4854 2578-4854
Published: Wiley 2024
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URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa65651
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Abstract: The last several decades have seen a rise in efforts to remove weirs, but there is little research investigating how projects are carried out, potential areas for improvement, or sharing of lessons to facilitate reconnection of more rivers. The aim of the study presented here was to explore how people involved in weir remediation perceive project processes, factors that facilitate or hinder action implementation, and possible ways processes could be improved to reconnect more rivers. We carried out semi-structured interviews with people (n = 11) who had been actively involved in weir remediation processes in the Severn River Catchment, United Kingdom, and used their responses to create a group mental model. The group mental model was created to support learning and communication about weir remediation projects between individuals and groups. We found broad agreement from those involved in creating the group mental model about weir remediation project processes and potential areas for improvement. One of the only points of divergence within the group mental model was associated with the impact of different weir remediation actions, particularly weir removal. Based on the group mental model, we set out three calls to action to reconnect more rivers in the UK. First, move beyond opportunistic projects and establish national goals and catchment-scale plans for weir remediation. Second, reform fish passage legislation and legislate weir ownership. Doing so would support more effective remediation solutions by recognizing the diversity of fish species that reside in UK rivers and help mitigate risks from hazardous weirs through owner accountability. Third, build cross-sector and public partnerships to encourage removal or improved fish pass designs. We direct the three calls to action to policy makers and anyone already engaged in or envisioning weir remediation projects in the UK. The calls also have potential implications and relevance to people in other countries in Europe and beyond.
Keywords: decision making, Europe, freshwater, policy, rehabilitation, restoration, weir removal
College: Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
Funders: European Regional Development Fund. Grant Number: 80761-SU-140 (West); Llywodraeth Cymru
Issue: 3