REFORM newsletter No 4 - January 2014

Welcome editorial by the REFORM Coordinator

Dear reader,

We are pleased to present the fourth REFORM newsletter, keeping you informed of the progress in our project and of other connected developments. Of course, we always appreciate it when you forward our newsletter to interested colleagues.

First, I would like to draw your attention to REFORM’s first set of results. Presenting these first results is meant to help with the drafting of the second round of river basins management plans, which need to ready for consultation by the end of 2014 for the EU Water Framework Directive. When the REFORM proposal was submitted to the European Commission, we anticipated this and scheduled a substantial initial mid-term output. We invite you to consult this information and hope that it can support your work. Also, we would appreciate your feedback to know how these results were helpful. Of course, the results can also be used for other purposes. The following REFORM mid-term outputs are now available on our website:

  • D1.1 Review on eco-hydromorphological methods
  • D1.2 Review on pressure effects on hydromorphological variables and ecologically relevant processes
  • D1.3 Review on ecological response to hydromorphological degradation and restoration
  • D1.4 Inventory of river restoration measures: effects, costs, and benefits
  • D2.3 Valuing the ecosystem services provided by European river corridors: an analytical framework
  • D3.1 Impacts of hydromorphological degradation and disturbed sediment dynamics on ecological status
  • D5.1 Measuring success of river restoration actions using end-points and benchmarking
  • D6.1 Synthesis of interim results for practical application to support the compilation of the 2nd RBMPs
  • D7.3 Summary report REFORM stakeholder workshop

In this issue of the REFORM newsletter, we interview Professor Gary Brierley (University of Auckland, New Zealand). Being British by birth, he now is actively fostering river conservation and restoration around the globe. He has an extensive track record to research river behaviour and to support decision-making in river management. Together with Kirstie Fryirs, he launched the River Styles Framework providing a physical template for river management by examining river character, behaviour, condition, and recovery potential. In the interview, he emphasizes making better use of available know-how. In many instances, we know what we want to do to restore rivers, but, too often, legislative, societal, or institutional impediments ‘get in the way’. Professor Brierley is a member of the Advisory Board of REFORM.

Remeandering of the River Bečva (Czech Republic) was caused by a major flood event in 1997, and the meanders are still present today. Photo: Tom Buijse.

The next item in our newsletter addresses the new work programme of the WFD’s Common Implementation Strategy. For over a decade, the CIS has supported EU Members States with the implementation of the WFD. The Member States decide on the topics to be addressed by the CIS. The new programme continues its focus on hydromorphology and includes new topics on environmental flows and the programmes of measures to improve ecological status.

If the mountain can't come to Muhammad …” REFORM also organises several regional events, in addition to EU-wide events such as the stakeholder workshop, which took place in February 2013 in Brussels. The first regional event took place in Zutphen (the Netherlands) in November 2013. In Zutphen, Dutch water managers, consultants, and other river restoration practitioners discussed the initial results of REFORM, as well as the achievements in the Rhine Basin and the UK River Restoration Centre. Since water managers, consultants and other river restoration practitioners quite often do not have the opportunity to attend international scientific conferences and learn about the state–of-the–art in river restoration, the regional workshop brought several renowned experts to the Netherlands, which was very much appreciated. For those who could not attend the workshop, the presentations were recorded and can be viewed on YouTube.

All presentations from REFORM’s first regional workshop in November 2013 are available on YouTube. The presentations introduce some of the project’s key initial results.

A major event regarding river restoration in Europe in 2013 was the fifth European River Restoration Conference in Vienna last September. The conference launched the contest for the first European River Prize, which was awarded to the International Commission for Protection of the Rhine. The event also marked the end of the successful LIFE+ RESTORE project that boosted communication on river restoration in Europe over the last three years. At the conference, REFORM was offered the opportunity to present its initial results to a wide audience of stakeholders.

As always, our newsletter highlights one of our river restoration case studies. This time, we feature the River Vääräjoki in Finland, which was channelized for flood protection and to facilitate the transport of trees (“log driving”). Over 16 km of the Vääräjoki have now been restored, and there are plans to restore over 80 km in total. This case study demonstrates that restoration can be highly appreciated by the local community. It also shows how other pressures, such as diffuse pollution by nutrients, pose a complicated yet important hurdle to overcome to further improve the ecological status of rivers.

We hope that you enjoy reading our newsletter. If you have comments or questions, please contact us. At the same time, we invite you to share your river restoration contributions with us. We would be happy to offer our website or future newsletters to announce an event or present a relevant study or report.


On behalf of the REFORM team,

Tom Buijse

REFORM Coordinator


p.s. If you do not yet automatically receive our newsletter and are interested, then please visit and subscribe on our home page (

For further information: 

Dr. Tom Buijse

Mid-term output of REFORM available online to support WFD implementation

A substantial mid-term output of REFORM was planned and realized by the end of 2014 to be timely available to support drafting of the second round of river basin management plans for the EU Water Framework Directive. These finalized deliverables can be downloaded on the REFORM website. We would especially like to draw attention to the newer deliverables that have been published since June 2013.

New Deliverables

Since June 2013, the following deliverables have been submitted to and approved by the European Commission.

Earlier Deliverables

For further information: 

Dr. Tom Buijse

Sharing Global Lessons in River Restoration, An interview with Professor Gary Brierley

Gary Brierley is a geographer who specialises in the use of science to guide river management applications (especially rehabilitation and conservation activities). There has been extensive uptake of a research tool that he co-developed (the River Styles framework His work supports initiatives that promote river repair, using coherent scientific principles to establish a catchment-framed integrating landscape platform. He is particularly concerned with inter-disciplinary science and management, and the use of place-based research to inform policy, planning and on-the-ground applications. His research outputs include several books and edited volumes (especially Geomorphology and River Management (Brierley and Fryirs, 2005), River Futures (Brierley and Fryirs, editors, 2008) and Geomorphic Analysis of River Systems. An Approach to Reading the Landscape (Fryirs and Brierley, 2013)), over 100 internationally refereed journal articles, over 20 refereed conference proceedings, over 20 sections in books, various review articles/comments, and over 55 commissioned and/or consultancy reports. He has taught professional short courses in fluvial geomorphology and applications of the River Styles framework in various parts of the world.

1. Professor Brierley, please introduce yourself and explain your affiliation with rivers.

My passion for rivers has extended through my life. I have lived, studied, and researched on the banks of rivers in England, Tunisia, the West Bank, Canada, Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand. From this emerged a commitment to respect, strive to understand and protect river diversity, and the quest to develop management applications that are appropriate to the system under investigation – working with its inherent variability.

A fabulous set of postgraduate students at Macquarie University in Sydney fashioned deep understanding of geomorphic river responses to human disturbance in southeast Australia. Work with river managers prompted the development and uptake of the River Styles framework, building upon the mantra ‘know your catchment’. These various ideas came together in a 2005 book co-authored with Kirstie Fryirs.

These interests have continued and expanded since I moved to the University of Auckland in New Zealand in 2005. Subsequent opportunities to support uptake of the River Styles framework have included field investigations and professional short courses in China, India, Malaysia, Brazil, Austria, Sweden and the United States.

2. What do you see as the key challenges to conserving and restoring rivers (in Europe and/or worldwide)?

Although there’s always room for improvement in river science, to me the issue of greatest concern in fashioning healthier river futures is to improve the use that is made of available understandings. In many instances I feel that we know what we want (or ought) to be doing, but all too often legislative, societal or institutional impediments ‘get in the way’.

Significant choices must be made in determining what we want rivers to be like, and how we want them to behave. Restoration practice is complex and contextual (situated). It entails negotiations among divergent aspirations, values and goals.

To me, societal engagement is the key to healthier river futures. This is really a question of mindsets, perspectives and values: how important are healthy rivers alongside other socio-cultural values (especially economic and political concerns). I see parallels with litter campaigns of past decades – unless those who live along rivers care about their rivers, we will never support authentic conservation and restoration activities. Moves towards ‘river communities’ promote owned (participatory) practices, for which incentives and appropriate institutional frameworks are required. These are far from easy tasks!

Sadly, I feel that in much of the world the ‘development and growth’ ethos is moving us backwards in environmental terms. Hard won conservation battles from the past are increasingly being recontested, especially in places where mining and logging activities are booming. For example, some contend that there is a ‘War on Science’ in Canada, where the Fisheries Act has been ‘gutted’. Similar experiences and pressures are underway in Australia, where Catchment Management Authorities were recently disbanded in New South Wales.

3. Which key actions would you prioritize to address these challenges?

If we’re going to meet our potential in restoration practices, we have to set realistic yet visionary goals that clearly express what is achievable, what we seek to achieve, and why. Carefully crafted catchment action plans and prioritization frameworks are hard to find. To me, a conservation ethos should lie at the heart of such plans – looking after what’s left before we start arguing about how to restore it at some stage in the future. Benefit-cost analyses tied to appraisals of ecosystem services and associated values are required to accompany such determinations.

I’d like to see more  targeted interventions that demonstrate what can be achieved through process-based, catchment scale initiatives. Broader thinking on the range of potential management interventions is required, supporting passive restoration activities with a non-construction focus whenever possible. I particularly applaud moves towards space for the river, freedom space, or living river concepts.

Working with success is a critical step in restoration practice. Just as importantly, successes must be reported and communicated effectively. Sadly, I fear that an all too pervasive negativism surrounds appraisals of the effectiveness of restoration activities, with undue emphasis upon what doesn’t or hasn’t worked, to the relative exclusion of successful ventures where there is perhaps less to talk about and criticize (research thrives on a culture of criticism, which isn’t overly helpful in this instance).

Finally, from quite a different perspective, I do not feel that restoration activities and practices will become appropriately embedded as a part of the social psyche unless we create appropriate governance and institutional frameworks to promote and support such activities. Of particular note with this regard is how are we going to develop attractive career structures to entice and capture the hearts and minds of talented people who want to work in this field?

4. What lessons can European river managers and restoration practitioners learn from experiences in other regions of the world? And what can other regions learn from Europe?

Restoration literatures are especially prominent in New World countries of North America and Australasia, where circumstances differ markedly from conditions in Europe. Hence, while big picture restoration planning features prominently in the former context, concerns for cultural and domesticated landscapes and ecosystems abound in the latter. Perhaps the most significant difference in framing management and restoration activities in Europe relative to some other parts of the world lies in endeavours to promote more effective community and practitioner engagement. While bottom-up Landcare and Rivercare initiatives fostered these developments in Australia, top-down institutionally framed initiatives have been instigated in Europe.

To me, the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the most striking example of coherent future thinking in the river management arena. Much of the world can learn from its intent, design and implementation. Nothing is perfect, but unless a substantive legislative framing underpins activities, fragmented activities and practices are likely to ensue.

I also feel that moves towards more environmentally conscious lifestyles in Europe are truly commendable, whether in terms of the food we eat, the ways we travel around cities, or other lifestyle values and choices. In river restoration terms, such societal transitions are evident in increasing acceptance of an accommodation with nature in flood management and restoration programmes. Hopefully, these reframed perspectives as part of a tide of change towards restoration – the mainstreaming of restoration practices, wherein the shifting baseline of societal expectations supports (and expects) sustained improvements in river condition.

4. What needs to be done to improve the acceptance and uptake of cross-disciplinary approaches and guidance to restoring rivers such as the River Styles Framework and tools developed by REFORM?

Coherent catchment-framed applications provide critical guidance for effective restoration practice. Just as importantly, emerging technologies present remarkable capacity to develop place-based understandings to inform management. A suite of toolkits based on catchment-framed, process-based understandings is now in-hand, offering considerable prospect for uptake of more effective practices.

Fragmented science can only cause fragmented management. To me, it is the responsibility of researchers to develop integrative scientific guidance and promote its effective use. Consultation with stakeholders and end users is vital, clearly communicating coherent guidance using consistent terminology.

When practiced effectively, river rehabilitation is a form of adaptive management that promotes commitment to learning through experimentation. Whenever possible, activities should incorporate future variability into river restoration projects, shifting emphasis towards more flexible, open-ended and dynamic goals. Process-based analyses of evolutionary trajectory assess likely river futures, recognizing that uncertain outcomes, multiple future states and the emergence of novel ecosystems may occur. Effective stakeholder engagement as well as flexible and enabling institutions are elements required to underpin these endeavours.

5. The REFORM project is now halfway completed. What do you consider to be the most important potential outcome of the REFORM project, and how can this best contribute to river management?

I’m really impressed with the work of diagnostic indicators of restoration effectiveness, and emerging toolkits that prospectively present coherent conceptual frameworks to underpin Catchment Action Plans. To me, such proactive statements are a key component of future-proofing activities. Negotiations with end users are required to scope the uptake of these toolkits. Prospectively, ecosystem services and benefit-cost analyses will provide significant support for these endeavours. It may be helpful to prepare a set of principles on the use of open-ended principles to guide management applications. Negotiating a ‘middle course’ between scientific complexity and managerial simplicity is very difficult. Stakeholder (end-user) involvement provides critical guidance in the development and uptake of effective restoration practices.


Gary Brierley was interviewed on 6 December 2013 by Brandon Goeller (Transatlantic Fellow, Ecologic Institute) and Gerardo Anzaldua (Fellow, Ecologic Institute).

For further information: 

Brandon Goeller
Gerardo Anzaldua

The WFD Common Implementation Strategy work programme 2013-2015

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is a very complex piece of legislation. Right from the beginning, it became clear that implementation would be very challenging, and that there is a need for Member States, stakeholders, and the European Commission to develop common understanding of the key issues and to agree on common solutions to ensure a harmonised implementation. To achieve this, a Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) was established in 2001. In five subsequent work programmes spanning twelve years, the CIS has produced 29 guidance documents addressing topics from the identification of water bodies and guidance on reporting to public participation and economics.  Also, the intercalibration exercise ensuring comparability and consistency of the Member States’ ecological status classification methods was carried out under the umbrella of the CIS.

Current focus of the CIS

Even more than ten years after the adoption of the WFD there are still many issues that require common solutions. The 'Water Blueprint' published by the EC in November 2012 together with the 3rd WFD implementation report identified serious implementation gaps and needs for actions to be taken to achieve WFD objectives. To address these challenges, another CIS work programme was adopted recently to cover the period 2013-2015. The focus in this new work programme is on three broad topics - water status, water management, and knowledge integration and dissemination. The work is organised in nine working groups grouped in three clusters (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Organisational structure of CIS 2013-2015.


Hydromorphology in the CIS work programme 2013-1015

In the Water Blueprint, hydromorphological pressures were identified to be amongst the main factors preventing the achievement of good ecological status in the EU. In the new CIS work programme, topics related to hydromorphology are addressed in several working groups:

  • The Ecological Status working group addresses the harmonisation of approaches for ecological potential, requiring information exchange on the assessment of hydromorphological impacts and the classification of heavily modified water bodies. Also, the integration of information from biological, physicochemical, and hydromorphological quality elements in the assessment of ecological status will be addressed.
  • The working group on environmental flows (e-flows) is developing a guidance document to be completed in 2014 focusing on common understanding and best practices.
  • The working group "Programmes of Measures" (PoM) has identified 'hydromorphology and natural water retention methods' as one of its main topics. Among other things, the PoM working group will organise a workshop on best practices in addressing hydromorphological pressures in 2014.


CIS and REFORM have been and will remain in close contact. REFORM was presented during the CIS workshop on hydromorphology in June 2012, and a back-to-back meeting was organized in conjunction with REFORM’s stakeholder workshop in February 2013. Evdokia Achilleos (DG Environment) and Peter Pollard (SEPA) are members of the REFORM advisory board. The present CIS work programme has multiple linkages with the scope of REFORM, in particular regarding hydromorphology and programmes of measures. Thus, opportunities to interact will be sought for during the remainder of the REFORM project in 2014 and 2015.


Further links

CIS guidance documents:

CIS work programme 2013-2015:

Water Blueprint and WFD implementation reports:



Wouter van de Bund, European Commission Joint Research Centre

For further information: 

Wouter van de Bund

First national REFORM stakeholder event - presentations on YouTube

One of the aims of REFORM is to summarise and evaluate river restoration projects and related research. It is very important to share this knowledge with European water managers, so that they can be more effective and efficient in river restoration. In this process, the step from science to practice has to be set. Within the REFORM project, new and existing knowledge is disclosed, for instance through the REFORM wiki. To convert the REFORM knowledge into practise, a workshop was organised in Zutphen, The Netherlands. The workshop, which was chaired by Wim Zeeman, facilitated the discussion between scientists, water managers, and their advisors. After a series of presentations, the participants were encouraged to bring forward practical issues and questions specific for their region. Small discussion groups were formed, in which REFORM scientists and water managers could interact (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The first national stakeholder event in Zuphen, The Netherlands, featured small discussion groups with water managers and REFORM scientists. Photo: Tom Buijse.

The Workshop was introduced by Joost Buntsma, director of STOWA, The Dutch Foundation for Applied Water Research. Presentations from REFORM were given by Angela Gurnell, Christian Wolter, Massimo Rinaldi, Ian Cowx, and Armin Lorenz. Other presentations were given by Nathalie Plum from the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine and Jenny Mant from the UK River Restoration Centre. All presentations were video recorded and live streamed to  the STOWA website.

The formula of this event proved to be very successful. The presentations addressed the audience well and supported more detailed discussion in smaller groups, which was appreciated by the participants and the REFORM scientists alike. The event was intended to provide this type of dynamic, 2-way interaction. Not only was information from REFORM presented, but also an opportunity was offered for stakeholders to address specific practical issues and to make suggestions for the way in which river restoration knowledge has to be made available.

All presentations are available on the website of STOWA, in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, as well as a video recording (links to YouTube).

Further links


Bas Van der Wal, the Dutch Foundation for Applied Water Research (STOWA)

For further information: 

Bas van der Wal

The 5th European River Restoration Conference

The European Centre for River Restoration (ECRR), alongside the RESTORE partners and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), organized the 5th European River Restoration Conference from 11-13 September, 2013, in Vienna, Austria.

This European River Restoration Conference, amongst other contributions, showcased inspiring examples of river restoration and shared lessons learned about the successes, challenges, and opportunities for river restoration in Europe. The conference brought together over 300 key policy makers, restoration practitioners, and scientists to discuss opportunities for river restoration to achieve a number of environmental, economic, and social objectives.

The conference also featured the 1st European Riverprize, which was awarded by the International River Foundation to the Rhine River and the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine River (ICPR). The ICPR’s longevity and legacy of success go beyond the scope of the WFD, fostering international cooperation and mutual understanding to improve the health of the Rhine. Continuing to expand cooperation among the restoration community, stakeholders, and impacted communities and communicating this work to the general public will be necessary to tackle the current and future challenges of restoring rivers.

The Final Declaration of Vienna was made up on the 13th September 2013. This declaration synthesises the key issues for the coming years. The participants of the fifth European River Restoration Conference felt that these issues should be at the forefront of river restoration and work together with some examples of the key actions required to address them. The Declaration states that to reverse the effects of development and its associated drivers and pressures in rivers, ecosystem approaches must be integrated into river planning and management. Cross-cutting approaches that consider multiple actors and communities and have realistic targets are needed to help guide future restoration work.   

REFORM was featured in a special side event, where conference participants were informed about the project’s objectives and key contributions in science and practice of river restoration. Presentations were held by Tom Buijse, Christian Wolter, Brandon Goeller, and Gertjan Geerling, and the audience was engaged in discussions about REFORM’s development. The side event was an excellent opportunity to showcase REFORM to active members of the European river restoration community, and the response to the project was very positive. All presentations from the conference are available online.

Strides have been made in creating a more inclusive dialogue about restoring rivers, including consultation with stakeholders and impacted communities. There is growing momentum for river restoration to continue moving into the public spotlight and gain broader acceptance. Large conferences such as the 5th European River Restoration Conference in Vienna, as well as large international projects like the EU Projects LIFE+ RESTORE and FP7 REFORM provide an outlet and platform for the river restoration community to critically examine the progress made and continue growing.


Impressions of the 5th European River Restoration Conference. Photos courtesy of the RESTORE project.

Further links


Brandon Goeller, Ecologic Institute

Wim Zeeman, Dienst Landelijk Gebied

For further information: 

Brandon Goeller

Restoring the channelized River Vääräjoki (Finland) towards good ecological status

The River Vääräjoki is a mid-sized lowland river with 835 km2 catchment area. The river is 107 km long and descends 110 metres from its source to the confluence where it meets the larger River Kalajoki, which further flows to Gulf of Bothnian in the Baltic Sea (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Catchment and location of River Vääräjoki in Finland.

Human activities have extensively modified hydrological and morphological conditions of the river in the past 150 years. Altogether, 25 km was channelized for flood protection and timber floating between the 1860s and late 1950s. From 1959-1974, Lake Evijärvi in the middle reaches of Vääräjoki was reclaimed for flood protection (Figure 2). Nine hundred ha of lake area were reclaimed by channelizing the river and by embankments. Especially flood protection measures changed the riffle areas considerably: The water retention capacity of the river bed decreased, and the heterogeneous flow patterns in riffle habitats disappeared.

Figure 2. The spring floods at Vääräjoki. Photo: Maarten Plug.

Nowadays, all rapids in the section from 13 km to 29 km upstream of the river mouth have been restored. These extensive works were started in late 1990s and were finished in 2006. The main aim has been to return the heavily modified river closer to its natural hydrological and morphological state and particularly to enable fish migration and spawning. The stream bed was rearranged using boulders that had originally been removed from the channel during channelization and placed along stream margins (Figure 3). Also, gravel beds were created to provide nursery habitat for salmonids.

Figure 3. The restored riffle Niskakoski at Vääräjoki. Photo: Jukka Aroviita.

In 2013, there are plans to continue the restoration works at the upper and lower reaches of the river. The restoration plan for the upstream reach 35-86 km from the river mouth is ready, and the work is about to begin. The plan to restore the downstream part of the river 0-13 km from the river mouth is nearly finished.

Despite the hydromorphological restorations, diffuse loading from agriculture and forestry in the catchment still impacts the river. Furthermore, soils in the area are naturally acidic and their cultivation has caused episodic acidification and impairment of the ecological status of the river. In the second national assessment for the WFD in 2013, ecological status was assessed as moderate. The catchment pressures thus likely hinder attaining the ecological objectives of the WFD.

A socio-economic study conducted in Vääräjoki as part of REFORM in April 2013 indicated that most respondents (78 %) visit the river several times a year. Among the total 67 people that were interviewed, the most common activities were bird or animal watching, fishing, and walking their dog along the river.

A slight majority of the respondents were also aware of the restoration activities. Plans to expand the restorations to upstream sections of the river were less well known: around 30% of the respondents were aware of these plans. In the choice experiment, most respondents were willing to have a tax increase in order to enable restorations to improve the ecological condition and provide more natural scenery. The study thus revealed a wide public acceptance, awareness, and willingness to participate in river basin management at the local scale.

Further links

Link to the socio-economic study conducted in Vääräjoki as part of REFORM in April 2013


Jaana Rääpysjärvi, Finnish Environment Institute

Jukka Aroviita, Finnish Environment Institute

For further information: 

Jaana Rääpysjärvi