AMBER - Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers

hydroelectric dams on the River Garry

Upper Garry (River Ness) case study

An assessment of ecosystem restoration needs arising from the presence and operation of hydroelectric dams on the River Garry


  • Biodiversity monitoring (eDNA)
  • Catchment management

Project lead: Lucio Marcello

Project team: Working group - Barbara Morrissey, Euan Bowditch. Steering group - Eric Verspoor, Melanie Smith, Philomena de Lima, Chris Conroy (NSDFB), Alastair Stephen (SSE).

Collaborators: Kjersti Birkeland and Alistair Duguid (SEPA), Hugh Cheape (Sabhal Mòr Ostaig), Iain Malcolm, Faye Jackson, Pauline Proudlock (Marine Scotland Science - MSS), Glengarry Heritage Centre.

Project partners: 20 partners from 11 countries led by Swansea University

Funding: EU – Horizon 2020


AMBER stands for Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers. The AMBER project seeks to apply adaptive management to the operation of dams and barriers in European rivers to achieve a more efficient restoration of stream connectivity, and address impacts caused by river fragmentation.

AMBER proposes to address the challenge of river fragmentation through an adaptive management process (Hauser & Possingham 2008; Howes et al. 2010), whereby the results of barrier management are fed into the management process itself, thereby reducing uncertainty via system monitoring. Applying adaptive management to barrier mitigation involves the integration of programme design, management, and monitoring to systematically test assumptions, adapt and learn. The challenge is to find an optimal balance between gaining new knowledge on the benefits and impacts of barriers - to improve future river ecosystem restoration, and using current knowledge to achieve the most cost-effective management in the short term.

The Rivers and Lochs Institute (RLI), University of the Highlands and Islands - Inverness College, leads an AMBER case study on assessment of ecosystem restoration needs arising from the presence and operation of hydroelectric dams on the River Garry, a tributary of the Ness river system. The assessment will be used to inform the decision-making process to mitigate for the impacts observed. The case study includes a comparison of the Garry with the River Moriston and an assessment of downstream barriers affecting the migration of Garry salmon out to sea.

A full case study description for the Upper Garry (River Ness) can be found on the AMBER website.

Citizen science

Aims and Objectives:

Upper Garry:

  • Conduct a detailed habitat assessment, through drone survey data (in collaboration with Durham University - Martyn Lucas’s lab).
  • Acquisition of water quality data (collaboration with SEPA) and water temperature data (collaboration with Iain Malcolm, MSS)
  • Gather biodiversity data through eDNA methods, validated and substantiated by traditional sampling (fish and invertebrates)
  • Investigate and analyse socio-ecological issues through focussed interviews, interactive web tools and an online questionnaire
  • Establish a pre-dam biodiversity baseline, through historical records (including Gaelic sources, in collaboration with Prof. Hugh Cheape at Sabhal Mor Ostaig)
  • Produce an Upper Garry case study report providing an adaptive management framework and potential barrier mitigation initiatives


  • Contribute to barrier inventory and atlas (WP1, WP = Work Package, see below)
  • Contribute to the eDNA molecular toolkit (WP2)
  • EU Salmon atlas (WP4)
  • Contribution to testing the Barrier Tracker App and development of a citizen science program for the case study (WP5)

Work packages:

  • European Inventory of Stream Barriers
  • Impacts of Barriers on Stream Habitats and Natural Capital
  • Restoring Stream Connectivity through Adaptive Barrier Management: Benefits & Tradoffs
  • Case Studies and Demonstration Phase on Adaptive Barrier Management
  • Communication, Dissemination and Public Engagement through Citizen Science