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An integrated planning framework supports the design of river restoration measures. This framework is cyclic for both entire river basins (catchments) and individual projects.

The planning frameworks are presented below. Relevant definitions for restoration planning are given here. Further reading: benchmarking and setting end-points, cost-effectiveness and benefits, climate and land-use changes , risks and uncertainty.

Planning at a catchment scale

What's in this wiki? Click image to return to the overview of river basin management plan.

Restoration planning at a catchment scale has six main steps:

  1. River characterization
  2. River condition. The DPSIR framework captures the key relationships between society and the environment across multiple sectors. Conflict and resolution matrices support effective collaboration between disciplines and interaction with policy makers and local stakeholders.
  3. River restoration potential. This regards the level of ecological improvement that can be achieved, considering the influence of sector activities (drivers) and whether rivers are classified as “heavily modified water body” or “artificial”. The DPSIR framework helps in identifying multi-benefits by linking the ecosystem approach, ecosystem services and societal benefits that come from these services. The effects on biota are higher in gravel-bed mountain rivers with low land-use pressure.
  4. Programme of measures. The measures necessary to meet the environmental objectives of the WFD cost-effectively are developed in association with the responsible authorities and other stakeholders. They include hydromorphological measures. There is no single “best measure”, but widening generally has a high effect . Restoring specific habitats is more important than merely increasing habitat diversity.
  5. Project identification. Clear objectives need to be set to justify the rehabilitation measures selected. The identification of projects is supported by a decision matrix. Small restoration projects do work, but larger projects with a long-term plan are recommended.
  6. The project cycle for the planning of individual projects.

Planning of individual projects

The planning of individual river restoration projects sets project objectives to improve ecological status at a local scale whilst keeping the project in a river basin or catchment context. The project cycle in the figure follows the basic PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) structure, but includes more detailed planning phases in the first part. Having identified the project within planning at the catchment scale, the following five phases play a key role:

  1. Project formulation
  2. Financing
  3. Project implementation
  4. Post-project monitoring
  5. Post-project evaluation

The project cycle for planning individual projects.

Project formulation

The attention for project formulation focuses on the acceptability of the project and the desired outcomes. The DPSIR framework allows identification of appropriate rehabilitation measures. The setting of achievable goals and objectives is supported by defining benchmarks and endpoints, formulating SMART project objectives, problem tree analysis, logical framework approach, risk and uncertainty analysis, and multiple-criteria decision analysis problem tree analysis. Monitoring problem tree analysis is designed to evaluate overall project effectiveness by comparing results with the objectives. Terrestrial and semi-aquatic species benefit most from restoration . The result is a higher number of individuals rather than new species . Specific traits or species are affected rather than the mere number of total species .


The planning of financing is supported by cost-benefit analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis . Restoration pays, because it increases ecosystem services .

Project implementation


Post-project monitoring

Monitoring is essential for evaluating overall project effectiveness. Monitoring and adjustment go hand in hand, because nobody can fully predict restoration outcomes beforehand.

Post-project evaluation

The post-project evaluation phase assesses the overall project effects and the sectoral impact of the project on the basis of measurable indicators or endpoints in a logical framework.