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Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - AMBER (Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-09-30

Rivers rank among some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world and are the focus of costly restoration programmes costing billions to taxpayers. Much of Europe depends on water from rivers for drinking, food production and the generation of hydropower, essential for meeting the EU renewable energy target. Improving stream connectivity has been flagged as one of the priorities for more efficient stream restoration, but effective rehabilitation of ecosystem functioning in European rivers needs consider the complexity and socioeconomic trade-offs imposed by barriers.

AMBER t has applied adaptive management to the operation of dams and barriers in European rivers to achieve more efficient restoration of stream connectivity and address the impacts of river fragmentation.
AMBER has delivered high-quality outputs including:
1. The first pan-European atlas of stream barriers, accessible via an online web portal (https://amber.international/european-barrier-atlas/). The AMBER Barrier Atlas includes 629,955 unique barrier records compiled from 120 databases.
2. A European citizen science programme and a mobile phone app. The Barrier Tracker App is available at https://portal.amber.international/ and will continue to be free to download beyond the end date of the project.
3. The first global model for assessing and predicting barrier effects on local biota for practitioners and managers to obtain robust predictions for local barriers and rivers (https://amber.international/software/).
4. The AMBER rapid barrier assessment toolkit for the assessment of connectivity for multiple taxa, field-tested and ready to be used by managers and practitioners (https://amber.international/software/).
5. AMBER decision support tools for barrier mitigation and planning, including both a quantification of the response of aquatic organisms as well as the determinants of social acceptance of dams and reservoirs in Europe, allowing a full socio-economic and ecological valuation of river fragmentation and connectivity restoration (https://amber.international/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/AMBER-Policy-Brief-2.pdf).
6. A practical guide for the application of the AMBER tools for solving problems of barriers, including applications with real case studies, exemplifying best practices in adaptive barrier management for river restoration (https://amber.international/case-studies/).
7. The AMBER Knowledge Translation (KT) strategy, a comprehensive dissemination and exploitation strategy to turn information into knowledge, knowledge into innovation, and innovation into application (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPB6VBaM-p9Mv7s0yjfmDqA) and https://amber.international/).

Specific outputs of the AMBER project include:
1. AMBER Barrier ATLAS
A common methodology for reporting and classifying stream barriers and pan-European Barrier Atlas guidance on stream barrier surveying and reporting developed. Information was compiled on location, typology, and impact of stream barriers in 33 European countries and validated with field sampling across 65 EU rivers. A barrier database was developed and a web-based portal for visualisation and reporting of stream barriers with input through citizen science created (https://amber.international/european-barrier-atlas/). Data is freely available for stakeholders to download. AMBER Policy Brief 1 provides in-depth information on the AMBER Barrier Atlas (https://amber.international/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/AMBER-policy-Brief-1.pdf).
2. Impacts of Stream Barriers
A conceptual framework for estimating barrier effects on fluvial processes at different spatial scales under different scenarios of climate change was developed. Barrier effects were assessed for a range of aquatic biota. Protocols for assessing stream connectivity using drone imagery and a molecular toolkit were developed and field tested. Pilot data on ESS and natural capital impacted by barriers were collected. Information on the impacts of stream barriers is available in AMBER Policy Brief 3 (https://amber.international/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/AMBER-Policy-Brief-3.pdf).
3. Restoring Stream Connectivity: Benefits & Trade-offs
A decision support tool for assessing barrier impacts was developed and causes for the poor performance of many barrier mitigation schemes investigated. Laboratory work on swimming behaviour of weak swimmers took place and an Agent Based Model was built. Assessment of the socio-economic drivers and impediments for successful reconnection of European rivers was completed and modelling of social attitudes to dams has taken place. Details of all AMBER decision support tools are available in AMBER Policy Brief 2 (https://amber.international/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/AMBER-Policy-Brief-2.pdf).
4. Demonstration phase (Case Studies)
A review demonstrating the benefits of Adaptive Barrier Management was undertaken. An AMBER toolkit was applied in case studies to inform of barrier problems in relation to migratory species, aquatic invasive species, and conflict resolution. The report and information on the seven AMBER case studies is available at https://amber.international/case-studies/.
5. Communication, Dissemination and Public Engagement
A strategy was developed, including the development of a Citizen Science Programme to increase public participation in the restoration of stream connectivity across Europe. The Barrier Tracker App, that allows citizen scientist to record barrier data using a smartphone, is available in 32 countries and in 11 languages. The Barrier Tracker App continues to be freely available to download and use beyond the end date of the project, with the 7,222 results from the 1,600 registered users available on the AMBER website at https://portal.amber.international/.
The degree of river fragmentation in Europe was formerly unknown and previous s barrier assessment only considered major barriers (higher than 10m). Now, the beyond state-of-the-art AMBER Barrier Atlas provides the first realistic pan-European picture of river fragmentation.

AMBER has made use of novel technologies, including drones for habitat assessment, eDNA for species surveys and powerful predictive modelling in combination with citizen science, alongside quantifying Ecosystem Services affected by dams at case study sites. Collectively, this information is also beyond the state-of-the-art and will enable better barrier mitigation decisions to be made. AMBER has provided information on all the use of these novel technologies in the AMBER case studies (https://amber.international/case-studies/) and in AMBER Policy Brief 2 (https://amber.international/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/AMBER-Policy-Brief-2.pdf).

Public involvement through the smartphone app has not only provided additional data to the project, but directly involved the public in thinking about river management and wanting to protect their local environment. The AMBER Citizen Science programme has been an excellent tool to enforce education about sustainability and has provided more data to the AMBER Barrier Atlas than would have been possible through more traditional methods.
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