Physical restoration of rivers

Changes in the morphology of rivers are one of the main obstacles to achieving good ecological status of aquatic environments. This assessment led the European Commission to the launch of an action plan to safeguard Europe’s water resources: the Blueprint. It is thus necessary to launch operations to restore the hydromorphology of rivers, based on good ecological-engineering practices and managed by local entities.


Whether recreating meanders, replacing a river in its original bed, eliminating river bank protection, uncovering buried sections of rivers, etc., many projects to restore hydromorphological processes in rivers have been undertaken over the past few years and involved an array of stakeholders. These projects have multiple goals, including reducing flood risks, facilitating sediment transport, restoring continuity for aquatic species, reinstating hydraulic connections and habitats, improving water quality and living conditions, and creating recreational areas.

Monitoring and evaluation helps assess the environmental response and the ecological benefits of projects, improve knowledge and generally provide answers to the questions being asked about the project.

Publications providing technical information on river restoration and monitoring, and examples undertaken are available in the following sections:



Technical guidances and restoration examples

EN - European Rivers Network - 2023

This video illustrates the implementation of the restoration of the Sélune project from 2019 to 2023, which is a symbolic project enabling the restoration of the ecological continuity in France. The video focuses on the monitoring of the effects of the restoration, and its results.

EN - 2016

This French-German project aims at continuing the stocking of Allis shad in the Rhine initiated in 2007 and maintaining and reestablish wild populations of this endangered fish. The actions related to the restoration of the French population include the study of the upstream migration at barriers and fishways and a review of international knowledge on the fishways most appropriate to the species.

EN - Open rivers - 2023

Short description of these projects that will allow the free migration of fish species in the river.

EN - 2015

The Atlantic Salmon Summit, organized in France in October 2015, gathered scientists, institutions, managers, industry, NGOs or leading experts around the future of salmon in the Rhine. Obstacles to be removed, challenges and issues, case studies or latest results of the research were discussed. Presentations, summaries and videos are available.

FR - 2021

Launched in 2020 for 4 years, this LIFE “Water &Climate” project aims at supporting long-term local decision-making for climate-adapted water management. 21 French SAGE are involved.

EN - GWP & INBO - 2015

This handbook is aimed at practitioners involved in managing water resources and restoring ecosystems and, more broadly, anyone with an interest in these subjects. It includes, in particular, an overview of the key concepts and examples of ecosystem management.

FR - 2021

The “LIFE Dordogne river” program, going from 2020 to 2026, aims to conserve and restore rare and threatened natural environments of the Dordogne river.

FR - Onema - 2011

The collection presents more than 80 examples of river hydromorphology restoration undertaken over the past 20 years throughout France. These actions aim to preserve river hydromorphology or to re-establish hydromorphological processes of rivers. The first part of this publication provides general guidance on river restoration project implementation.

FR - OiEau - 2021

This study offers a detailed overview of the implementation of the restoration of river continuity in four European countries (BE, ES, LU, UK): main regulations and actions, stakeholders, financial elements, tools, incentives and obstacles are proposed. Full study

EN - Onema

Throughout France, Onema personnel have worked hard in favour of river continuity and provided local projects with their technical know-how. Few examples of the work in 2012 are presented in this page.

EN - AFB - 2018

From the AFB collection of examples, this factsheet presents the objectives of removing dams or weirs totally or partially, examples of possible technical solutions, and complementary measures that could be necessary depending on the context.

EN - Onema - 2014

A video introducing two outstanding projects restoring ecological continuity in France.

EN - AFB - 2019

The collection presents more than 25 examples of river hydromorphology restoration undertaken over the past 20 years throughout France. These actions aim to preserve river hydromorphology or to re-establish hydromorphological processes of rivers.


FR - Eaufrance

Feedbacks on river and wetland preservation or restoration actions, that could be sorted by river basin, type of operation or type of aquatic environment.

EN - AFB - 2017

This fact sheet presents the Mérantaise river project, which implemented different types of operations to meet the dual objective of flood mitigation and restoration of river continuity: weir removal, meandering, returning the river to its original bed, pond removal…

FR - Agence de l'eau Artois-Picardie - 2013

This collection contains feedbacks of 40 river restoration operations conducted in the Artois-Picardie Basin from 2007 to 2012.


This European initiative aims at connecting specialists, sharing knowledge, communicating and bringing experiences together in order to restore rivers by removing dams.

FR - Onema

Every Thursday, Onema website presents key facts regarding one or two examples of French river restoration projects.

EN - PNR Morvan & Ballon des Vosges

This project, carried out in the Burgundy-Franche-Comté region, aimed at restoring the functionality of rivers and their connectivities in order to allow recovery of aquatic environment. Amongst other things, 5000 m of stream will be restored, and 25 small obstacles and 7 big obstacles will be transformed.

FR - Agence de l'eau Seine-Normandie - 2007

Technical and reflection support for implementing river restoration projects.

FR - PNR Périgord-Limousin

Led by the PNR Périgord-Limousin, this program is based on two main working areas: restoration of habitats on the Haute-Dronne, and reintroduction of Pearl Mussels. Restoration of river continuity on the main obstacles will allow in the medium term a restoration of a wild Trout population.


Furthermore, France contributed during the last years in 2 major European projects about river restoration, each with different objectives: the RESTORE and the REFORM projects.


The RESTORE project ran between 2010 and 2013. It launched with six European partners working to share and promote information on the best and most effective means of carrying out river restoration in Europe. The overall mission of RESTORE was to encourage the restoration of European rivers towards a more natural state for increased ecological quality, flood risk reduction, and social and economic benefits.

RESTORE developed RiverWiki: an interactive database of over 500 case studies from across Europe with examples of restoration, mitigation, enhancement and rehabilitation which illustrate the multiple benefits that can be achieved through properly planned and executed projects.


The overall aim of the REFORM project is to provide a framework for improving the success of hydromorphological restoration measures to reach, in a cost-effective manner, target ecological status or potential of rivers.

To achieve this aim the REFORM consortium develops protocols and procedures to monitor the biological response to hydromorphological change with greater precision, to support the design of programmes of restoration and mitigation measures for the WFD and to integrate restoration better with socio-economic activities.


Monitoring and evaluation


FR - AFB - 2019

This practical guide focuses on the monitoring design and data collection methods for biological, hydromorhological elements necessary to assess the ecological effect of the restoration project.

FR - Onema - 2012

This sheet focuses on the benefits of monitoring and evaluating a restoration operation, the expected objectives of such actions, the principles for action and the steps to be taken.

EN - I.S.Rivers - 2018

In the context of the 2018 I.S.Rivers, several river restoration projects have been presented, along with their monitoring programmes. Among them, sediment replenish operations in Alpine rivers such as the Buëch and the Drac.

FR - Onema - 2010

On this website, some feedbacks on river or wetland restoration are available, containing a "monitoring" section.

EN - AFB & INRA - 2018

This website presents the Selune river restoration project. In the context of removing the Vezins and La-Roche-Qui-Boit dams, a monitoring program has been set up to monitor the ecological restoration of the river basin and to characterize the related changes. Societal impacts are also being studied. See also this specific study.


In France, dashboards are set up in some catchment areas. Providing indicators, these can be used as supports for monitoring: Charente Seudre, Garonne


Hydromorphological monitoring of two French Alpine river restoration projects is detailed by the HyMoCARES Interreg project.