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Research project

Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers (AMBER)

Project overview

Rivers rank among some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world, and are the focus of costly restoration programmes that cost billions to taxpayers. Much of Europe depends on water from rivers for drinking, food production, and the generation of hydropower, which is essential for meeting the EU renewable energy target. Yet only half the EU surface waters have met the WFD’s 2015 target of good ecological status, due in part to the fragmentation of habitats caused by tens of thousands of dams and weirs which also pose a flood hazard. Some barriers are old and redundant, but may have historical value, while the life span of others will soon come to an end and may need to be removed. But barriers also provide energy, water supply, flood defense, fishing and leisure opportunities, and may also help to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. 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 to take the complexity and trade-offs imposed by barriers into account.

AMBER ( will deliver innovative solutions to river fragmentation in Europe by developing more efficient methods of restoring stream connectivity through adaptive barrier management. The project seeks to address the complex challenge of river fragmentation through a comprehensive barrier adaptive management process, based on the integration of programme design, management, and monitoring to systematically test assumptions about barrier mitigation, adapt and learn.

The University of Southampton is one of 20 European partners involved in the €6.2 million AMBER research project that will take place over the next 4 years. Prof. Paul Kemp, Dr Jim Kerr and Dr Andrew Vowles, scientists at the International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research (ICER), University of Southampton, will be leading a work package researching the benefits and trade-offs of adaptive barrier management for restoring stream connectivity.

The world-renowned research facilities and expertise at the University of Southampton in addition to that from other UK and European institutes will be used to meet the following work package objectives:
•Develop effective decision tools for the restoration of stream connectivity,
•Improve understanding of the causes of the poor performance of many barrier mitigation schemes,
•Assess the socio-economic drivers and impediments for successful reconnection of European rivers.

The International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research (ICER) at the University of Southampton is proud to launch the Horizon 2020 AMBER project.

AMBER is a €6.2 million multi-disciplinary research project that will deliver the first comprehensive ATLAS of river barriers (such as dams, weirs and culverts) across Europe and will apply adaptive barrier management to reconnect Europe’s rivers.

In collaboration with 20 partners from 11 countries, AMBER will combine citizen science and cutting-edge advances in environmental DNA, use of drones, and valuation of ecosystem services, to map the distribution of barriers and assess their effects on freshwater organisms. It will work with hydroelectric companies, water providers, NGOs, anglers and local authorities to restore river connectivity in a way that maximizes the benefits of water use but reduces environmental impacts.

Prof. Paul Kemp, Dr Jim Kerr and Dr Andrew Vowles, scientists at ICER, will be leading a work package researching the benefits and trade-offs of adaptive barrier management for restoring stream connectivity.

Watch AMBER launch video for more details


Lead researcher

Professor Paul Kemp

Professor of Ecological Engineering

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs

J.R. Kerr,
J.S. Tummers,
T. Benson,
M.C. Lucas,
, 2023 , Ecological Modelling , 478
Type: article
James Kerr,
Madelaine Crabb,
, 2021 , Journal of Environmental Management , 279 , 1--12
Type: article