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Operational methods for prioritizing the removal of river barriers: Synthesis and guidance

Garcia de Leaniz, Carlos, O'Hanley, Jesse R. (2022) Operational methods for prioritizing the removal of river barriers: Synthesis and guidance. Science of The Total Environment, 848 . p. 157471. ISSN 0048-9697. (doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.157471) (KAR id:96226)


Barrier removal can be an efficient method to restore river continuity but resources available for defragmenting rivers are limited and a prioritization strategy is needed. We review methods for prioritizing barriers for removal and report on a survey asking practitioners which barrier prioritization methods they use. Opportunities for barrier removal depend to a large extent on barrier typology, as this dictates where barriers are normally located, their size, age, condition, and likely impacts. Crucially, river fragmentation depends chiefly on the number and location of barriers, not on barrier size, while the costs of barrier removal typically increase with barrier height. Acting on many small barriers will often be more cost-efficient than acting on fewer larger structures. Barriers are not randomly distributed and a small proportion of barriers have a disproportionately high impact on fragmentation, therefore targeting these ‘fragmentizers’ can result in substantial gains in connectivity. Barrier prioritization methods can be grouped into six main types depending on whether they are reactive or proactive, whether they are applied at local or larger spatial scales, and whether they employ an informal or a formal approach. While mathematical optimization sets the gold standard for barrier prioritization, a hybrid approach that explicitly considers uncertainties and opportunities is likely to be the most effective. The effectiveness of barrier removal can be compromised by inaccurate stream networks, erroneous barrier coordinates, and underestimation of barrier numbers. Such uncertainties can be overcome by ground truthing via river walkovers and predictive modelling, but the cost of collecting additional information must be weighed against the cost of inaction. To increase the success of barrier removal projects, we recommend that barriers considered for removal fulfill four conditions: (1) their removal will bring about a meaningful gain in connectivity; (2) they are cost-effective to remove; (3) they will not cause significant or lasting environmental damage, and (4) they are obsolete structures. Mapping barrier removal projects according to the three axes of opportunities, costs, and gains can help locate any ‘low hanging fruit.’

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.157471
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5351 Business
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH541 Ecology
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Analytics, Operations and Systems
Depositing User: Jesse O'Hanley
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2022 09:20 UTC
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2023 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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