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A pan-European survey to strengthen and improve policies and strategic planning regarding river continuity restoration

This report gives a pan-European overview of the current policies and future plans regarding river continuity in all countries of pan-Europe.

From July 2020 up to and including January 2021, the River Continuity Survey commissioned by the European Centre for River Restoration (ECRR) and carried out by the Dutch Foundation for Applied Water Research (STOWA) has been set-up, distributed, and its answers have been translated into results, conclusions and recommendations. This project is fulfilled by Sharelle Verheij, an Aquaculture and Marine Resource Management master graduate at the Wageningen University and has been guided by the project group: Bart Fokkens (ECRR), Bas van der Wal (STOWA), Martijn van Staveren (Wageningen University and Research) and Tom Buijse (Deltares). The goal of the survey was to obtain a pan-European overview of the current policies and future plans regarding river continuity in all coun- tries of pan-Europe.

Undisturbed river continuity - free-flowing and without artificial barriers - is fundamental to the hydromorpholog- ical and ecological health of rivers. Recent studies and inventories indicate that the degree of river fragmentation by artificial barriers is remarkably high in many regions and countries of greater Europe and river restoration is considered the most progressive mechanism to improve this. Therefore, the ECRR has decided to raise awareness, disseminate information and develop knowledge and practices to support river continuity restoration. Across the ECRR member countries it was commonly agreed that there is currently no overview on the longitudinal river con- tinuity restoration policy, planning and implementation status of the various countries. Therefore, this project is set up to investigate the situation in each country and to ask the national river management authorities to clarify the general and country specific policies, demands and the support that is needed. European and national govern- ments, supported by NGOs and (knowledge) networks (such as the ECRR), can together contribute to developing the policy, planning and implementation to achieve the specific goal of longitudinal river continuity restoration.

A river continuity survey approach made it possible to investigate the current situation regarding the recognition of the importance of river continuity in national policies and the potential for restoring river continuity. By getting to know the country specific situations, the questions have provided insight into policies and the required support concerning guidance and tools. In order to advance river continuity restoration, what should be the main strategy per country and/or group of countries? This has been analysed through 60 questions, put to national governments which covered the following topics:

  1. Recognition of river continuity in current national policies

  2. The potential of river continuity restoration in your country

  3. Observations/opinions on the importance of and opposition to river continuity restoration

The answers to this survey and the results of their analyses have allowed initial conclusions and recommendations to be drawn as to the current situation regarding river continuity restoration policies and strategic planning in wider Europe. This information can be used in follow-up activities to formulate advices, improve current policies or propose and develop new policies and national restoration strategies, and generate greater support. Altogether, this could subsequently be developed into a Europe-wide openly accessible database on the plans, progress and status of river continuity, assisting national governments and river authorities in restoring river continuity. This will be beneficial for all the participating countries for achieving water legislation targets to improve the ecological status and UN Sustainable Development Goals.