Assessing restoration effects on hydromorphology in European mid-sized rivers by key hydromorphological parameters


The effects of river restoration on hydromorphological conditions and variability are often documented immediately following the restoration, but rarely properly monitored in the long term. This study assesses outcomes of 20 restoration projects undertaken across central and northern Europe for a comprehensive set of hydromorphological parameters, quantified at both larger and smaller spatial scales. For each project, we compared a restored river section to an upstream degraded section. Ten pairs of large projects were contrasted to ten similar but less extensive projects, to address the importance of restoration extent for the success of each project. Overall, river restoration increased habitat diversity through changes in channel morphology. Our results indicated that restoration particularly improved macro- and mesohabitat diversity, but had a limited effect on microhabitat conditions, including the diversity of substrates. We found no significant difference in effects between large and small restoration projects. Our results reveal the need to assess hydromorphological parameters which reflect processes occurring at different spatial scales, including indicators of larger-scale hydromorphological processes such as bank erosion, to monitor restoration effects effectively and accurately. Additionally, our results demonstrate the importance of developing terrestrial parameters, to assess the lateral dimension of river restoration.

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Funding for this study was provided by the EU-project REFORM (REstoring rivers FOR effective catchment Management), contract no. 282656 under the 7th Framework Programme. We are grateful to all field work teams at the 20 REFORM WP4 case study sites for generating the hydromorphological data of this study. We would particularly like to thank Michael Stachowitsch for English proofreading and Renate Polt for technical assistance. We appreciated the comments of guest editor Brendan McKie and two anonymous reviewers, who greatly contributed to improving the manuscript.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michaela Poppe.

Additional information

Guest editors: Jochem Kail, Brendan G. McKie, Piet F. M. Verdonschot & Daniel Hering / Effects of hydromorphological river restoration

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Annex 1

Descriptive attributes and evaluation parameters for the hydromorphological survey parameters. Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 33 kb)

Annex 2

Channel features (modified after Jähnig et al., 2008 and Januschke et al., 2009). Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 31 kb)

Annex 3

Substrates for instream microhabitat mapping according to the multi-habitat sampling protocol (Hering et al., 2003). Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 17 kb)

Annex 4

Flow velocity classes. Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 16 kb)

Annex 5

Habitat characteristics of the restored (R1, R2) and their corresponding degraded (D1, D2) sections. Parameters are listed and described in Table 2. Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 40 kb)

Annex 6

Spearman`s correlation coefficient ρ of the effect sizes (response ratio) of all 14 hydromorphological survey parameters as well as from PCA generated Component 1 (PCA extracted “Aquatic habitat parameter”) and Component 2 (PCA extracted “Terrestrial habitat parameter”) with ** p<0.01 and * p<0.05. Supplementary material 6 (DOCX 35 kb)

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Poppe, M., Kail, J., Aroviita, J. et al. Assessing restoration effects on hydromorphology in European mid-sized rivers by key hydromorphological parameters. Hydrobiologia 769, 21–40 (2016).

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  • Restoration effect
  • Hydromorphology
  • Key parameter
  • Scales
  • Restoration monitoring