Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Shining a light on the loss of rheophilic fish habitat in lowland rivers as a forgotten consequence of barriers, and its implications for management

Shining a light on the loss of rheophilic fish habitat in lowland rivers as a forgotten consequence of barriers, and its implications for management

Authors: Birnie-Gauvin K, Aarestrup K, Riis TMO, Jepsen N, Koed A
Source: Aquatic Conservation DOI 0.1002/aqc.2795

Abstract
  1. The majority of rivers around Europe have been modified in one way or another, and no longer have an original, continuous flow from source to outlet. The presence of weirs and dams has altered habitats, thus affecting the wildlife that lives within them. This is especially true for migrating rheophilic fish species, which, in addition to safe passage, depend on gradient and fast-flowing waters for reproductive success and early development.
  2. Thus far, research has focused on investigating the impacts of weirs and dams on fish passage, with less attention paid to the loss of habitat entrained by such infrastructure. The loss of rheophilic habitat is particularly important in lowland streams, where gradient is limited, and dams and weirs can be constructed with less effort.
  3. Denmark is considered a typical lowland country, where the landscape around streams and rivers has been modified by agriculture and other human activities for centuries, leaving management practitioners wondering how much change is acceptable to maintain sustainable fish populations and fisheries practices.
  4. With examples from Denmark, this paper attempts to conceptualize the loss in habitat as a result of barriers in lowland streams and rivers, and the repercussions that such alterations may have on rheophilic fish populations. Furthermore, the need for management to address habitat loss and its related consequences concurrently with the improvement of fish passage is emphasized.


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