Over forty years of lowland stream restoration: Lessons learned?

Paula C. dos Reis Oliveira*, Harm G. van der Geest, Michiel H.S. Kraak, Judith J. Westveer, Ralf C.M. Verdonschot, Piet F.M. Verdonschot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Stream restoration efforts have increased, but the success rate is still rather low. The underlying reasons for these unsuccessful restoration efforts remain inconclusive and need urgent clarification. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to evaluate over 40 years of stream restoration to fuel future perspectives. To this purpose we evaluated the influence of policy goals on stream restoration efforts, biophysical restoration objectives, restoration measures applied including the scale of application and monitoring efforts. Information was obtained from five stream restoration surveys that were held among the regional water authorities in the Netherlands over the last 40 years and from an analysis of the international scientific publications on stream restoration spanning the same time period. Our study showed that there was a considerable increase in stream restoration efforts, especially motivated by environmental legislation. However, proper monitoring of the effectiveness of the measures was often lacking. Furthermore, a mismatch between restoration goals and restoration measures was observed. Measures are still mainly focused on hydromorphological techniques, while biological goals remain underexposed and therefore need to be better targeted. Moreover, restoration practices occur mainly on small scales, despite the widely recognized relevance of tackling multiple stressors acting over large scales for stream ecosystem recovery. In order to increase the success rate of restoration projects, it is recommended to improve the design of the accompanying monitoring programmes, allowing to evaluate, over longer time periods, if the measures taken led to the desired results. Secondly, we advise to diagnose the dominant stressors and plan restoration measures at the appropriate scale of these stressors, generally the catchment scale.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110417
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2020


  • Catchment scale
  • Clean water act
  • Freshwater restoration
  • Legislation
  • Restoration techniques
  • WFD


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