European rivers are littered with barricades, but a movement grows to remove them
There’s more than one barrier per mile on average in Europe’s rivers, which chokes off life in these critical arteries. But public awareness is sparking calls to take out small dams, weirs, and ramps.
Rivers in Europe are more fragmented—meaning their natural flows are interrupted by man-made barriers—than any other continent’s rivers, new research shows.
In a four-year study spanning 36 European countries, scientists surveyed almost 1,700 miles of river by foot—and found at least 1.2 million obstacles preventing European rivers from flowing freely. That’s more than one barrier for every mile of river (or 0.74 barriers per kilometer).
“The numbers we found are higher than expected, and show that European rivers are broken,” says Barbara Belletti, a river geomorphologist who led the study at the Polytechnic University of Milan.
Thousands of large dams across Europe were catalogued in the study, which is published this week in Nature. However, researchers found that at least 85