Removing barriers from our rivers. What are the pros and cons?

“There is much debate over the need to create ‘free flowing rivers’ and there are especially good ecological reasons for doing so. European Commission Biodiversity Strategy aims for ‘25,000 km of free-flowing rivers by 2030’. Many of the arguments focus on the movement of migratory fish. In France and the USA, barrier removal has made significant progress compared to the UK. However, there are reasons to be cautious. Many barriers have cultural, historic and flood protection significance. Geomorphologically, barriers often store large quantities of sediment which on release would have ecological consequences. We use as a case study of these issues, the Western Rother in southern England.


Boardman, J. and Foster, I.D.L. 2023. Are ‘free-flowing rivers’ a good idea? The challenge of removing barriers from our rivers. Geography 108(3), 121-129.”