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European Climate Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article18 November 2022European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

Sweden's rivers get a new lease of LIFE

LIFE18 NAT/SE/000268
LIFE18 NAT/SE/000268/Countyboard of Gävleborg

In the 19th century, many watercourses in Sweden were straightened and cleared of boulders and rocks for timber floating. The process, however, eradicated habitats containing a myriad of aquatic species. Also, when road systems began to be built, various road culverts - tunnels carrying a stream under a road or railway – were often poorly placed, making migration upstream impossible. The construction of dams has had the same impact.

The team behind Rivers of LIFE are improving water courses in Voxnan, Gimån and Ljusnan in the counties of Gävleborg and Jämtland.  

The first restoration season took place last year in Västerhocklan and in the tributaries of Gimån. During 2022, work has included restoration actions in Ängerån, a tributary of Ljusnan, and the replacement of 15 road culverts.

'Thanks to our work, Västerhocklan has begun to regain a natural appearance. In the long run, the result will be a more productive river with more insect life, fish and better fishing, which should benefit local stakeholders through increased tourism,' said Rivers of LIFE project coordinator Peter Mathisen.

The restoration work also means more food for one of the project's target species, the otter, and a better living environment for another, the freshwater pearl mussel.

By the time the project finishes in 2026, the team aims to restore 120 km of stream habitats, build 320 spawning grounds for brown trout and achieve good ecological status for most of the streams. They also want to remove migration barriers in 14 dams and 38 road culverts.

Next on the list for restoration work are the Voxnan and Ljusnan rivers.

Rivers of LIFE supports the EU's Water Framework Directive, EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Nature Restoration Law.

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