Integration of juvenile habitat quality and river connectivity models to understand and prioritise the management of barriers for Atlantic salmon populations across spatial scales

Willem B. Buddendorf* (Corresponding Author), Faye L. Jackson, Iain A. Malcolm, Karen J. Millidine, Josie Geris, Mark E. Wilkinson, Chris Soulsby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
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Diadromous fish populations are strongly affected by in-stream barriers that cause river network fragmentation, constraining productivity or preventing completion of their lifecycle. Removal or reduction of barrier impacts is a restoration measure associated with unambiguous benefits. Management of barriers is therefore often prioritised above other restoration actions. Barrier management is prioritised at local and national scales depending on funding. However, barrier prioritisation is potentially sub-optimal because existing tools do not consider habitat quality. Furthermore, effects of partial barriers (those passable under certain conditions) are uncertain, depending on location and potential cumulative effects. A framework is presented for assessing effects of impassable manmade barriers (IMBs) on longitudinal river network connectivity (percentage of upstream habitat accessible from the river mouth) for Atlantic salmon across spatial scales, using Scotland as an example. The framework integrates juvenile habitat quality and network connectivity models to (1) provide information necessary for local and national prioritisation of barriers, and (2) assess potential effects of passable manmade barriers (PMBs) within a sensitivity framework. If only IMBs are considered, high levels of longitudinal connectivity are observed across most of Scotland's rivers. Barrier prioritisation is sensitive to habitat weighting: not accounting for habitat quality can lead to over- or underestimating the importance of IMBs. Prioritisation is also highly sensitive to the passability of PMBs: if passability drops to <97% (combined up- and downstream passability), the mean effect of PMBs becomes greater than IMBs at the national level. Moreover, impacts on catchment connectivity, and thus production (number of juvenile salmon produced by the river), could be severe, suggesting a better understanding of the passability of PMBs is important for future management of migration barriers. The presented framework can be transferred to other catchments, regions, or countries where necessary data are available, making it a valuable tool to the broader restoration community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-556
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date19 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Thanks to the Scottish Government Hydro Nation Scholarship programme for funding WBB. Authors from Marine Scotland Science Freshwater Fisheries Laboratories delivered this work through Service Level Agreement FW02G. Some map features are based on digital spatial data licensed from CEH, NERC© Crown Copyright and database right (2018), all rights reserved. Ordnance Survey License number 100024655. Catchment boundaries were from SEPA (2009). The Obstacles to Fish Migration dataset is from SEPA. The authors thank the two anonymous referees for their feedback on the manuscript.


  • River connectivity
  • Barriers to migration
  • Restoration
  • Barrier prioritisation
  • Scalable
  • Habitat quality
  • FLOW


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