Re-establishment of Danish streams: Restoration and maintenance measures

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Abstract

  • 1.Prior to 1983 the Danish legislation concerning streams gave priority to drainage of water. The revision of The Watercourse Act gave balanced priority to drainage of water and environmental quality, focusing on an ecologically more appropriate maintenance practice and giving special provisions for stream restoration activities.
  • 2.Different measures of single structure restoration have been used, the most common being replacement of weirs, dams or other obstacles by rapids, establishment of salmonid spawning grounds, and installation of new or improved fish ladders.
  • 3.The most common stream channel restoration method is integrated use of a number of single structure measures. Establishment of a two-stage channel and re-opening of small piped streams have also been used. Stream valley restoration includes restoration of old meanders or establishment of a new sinuous channel and involves the adjacent riparian areas.
  • 4.The changed stream maintenance practice involves a new strategy for dredging and cutting of weeds and bank vegetation in order to minimize the ecological damage caused by keeping a reasonable discharge capacity. In 1990, environmentally acceptable weed-cutting was performed in 37% of all municipal streams and the bank vegetation was left uncut in a third of the streams. Similarly, more than half of the county streams were maintained using hand scythes and in 74% of the streams the bank vegetation was left uncut.
  • 5.Quantitatively, stream restoration has contributed little to the general improvement of Danish streams compared with changed maintenance practice. Stream restoration projects create public interest in the environmental quality of streams, but major improvements in the physical properties of Danish streams depend on future maintenance practice.
  • 6.Due to major changes predicted in Danish agriculture many riparian areas and wetlands will reappear and the natural or semi-natural physical properties of streams will be re-established by natural processes or changed in maintenance practice. However, there will still be large areas with intensive agriculture, where environmental and agricultural interests must be balanced. The Danish experience has shown that this is possible.

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