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A comprehensive assessment of stream fragmentation in Great Britain

Jones, Joshua; Börger, Luca; Tummers, Jeroen; Jones, Peter; Lucas, Martyn; Kerr, Jim; Kemp, Paul; Bizzi, Simone; Consuegra, Sofia; Marcello, Lucio; Vowles, Andrew; Belletti, Barbara; Verspoor, Eric; Van de Bund, Wouter; Gough, Peter; de Leaniz, Carlos Garcia

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Joshua Jones

Luca Börger

Jeroen Tummers

Peter Jones

Jim Kerr

Paul Kemp

Simone Bizzi

Sofia Consuegra

Lucio Marcello

Andrew Vowles

Barbara Belletti

Eric Verspoor

Wouter Van de Bund

Peter Gough

Carlos Garcia de Leaniz


Artificial barriers are one of the main threats to river ecosystems, resulting in habitat fragmentation and loss of connectivity. Yet, the abundance and distribution of most artificial barriers, excluding high-head dams, is poorly documented. We provide a comprehensive assessment of the distribution and typology of artificial barriers in Great Britain, and estimate for the first time the extent of river fragmentation. To this end, barrier data were compiled from existing databases and were ground-truthed by field surveys in England, Scotland and Wales to derive a correction factor for barrier density across Great Britain. Field surveys indicate that existing barrier databases underestimate barrier density by 68%, particularly in the case of low-head structures (<1 m) which are often missing from current records. Field-corrected barrier density estimates ranged from 0.48 barriers/km in Scotland to 0.63 barriers/km in Wales, and 0.75 barriers/km in England. Corresponding estimates of stream fragmentation by weirs and dams only, measured as mean barrier-free length, were 12.30 km in Scotland, 6.68 km in Wales and 5.29 km in England, suggesting the extent of river modification differs between regions. Our study indicates that 97% of the river network in Great Britain is fragmented and <1% of the catchments are free of artificial barriers.


Jones, J., Börger, L., Tummers, J., Jones, P., Lucas, M., Kerr, J., …de Leaniz, C. G. (2019). A comprehensive assessment of stream fragmentation in Great Britain. Science of the Total Environment, 673, 756-762.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 9, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 10, 2019
Publication Date Jul 10, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 10, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 10, 2020
Journal Science of the Total Environment
Print ISSN 0048-9697
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 673
Pages 756-762


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