, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 972-984
Date: 24 Feb 2009

History of Bioengineering Techniques for Erosion Control in Rivers in Western Europe

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Living plants have been used for a very long time throughout the world in structures against soil erosion, as traces have been found dating back to the first century BC. Widely practiced in Western Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, bioengineering was somewhat abandoned in the middle of the twentieth century, before seeing a resurgence in recent times. Based on an extensive bibliography, this article examines the different forms of bioengineering techniques used in the past to manage rivers and riverbanks, mainly in Europe. We compare techniques using living material according to their strength of protection against erosion. Many techniques are described, both singly and in combination, ranging from tree planting or sowing seeds on riverbanks to dams made of fascine or wattle fences. The recent appearance of new materials has led to the development of new techniques, associated with an evolution in the perception of riverbanks.

This study was part of a research project on river bioengineering funded by the French Ministère de l’Ecologie, de l’Energie, du Développement Durable et de l’Aménagement du Territoire, Direction Générale de la Prévention des Risques.