Narew river restoration project

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Narew river restoration project

Factsheet: Narew river restoration project

Country PL
River Name Narew
Site Name Narew river restoration project
River Characterisation
    River typology
    Location (Lat Lon) 53.150005, 22.8716193
    Altitude lowland: < 200 m
    Catchment area very large: > 10000 km2
    Geology Organic
    National code/
    River type name
    Hydromorphological quality elements

    Biological quality elements
    Ecosystem Services
    EU Directives
    Project size 13.4 km2
    Approximate costs 100 000 - 1 000 000 Euros
    Synergy recreation, agriculture, increase biodiversity, water quality improvement
    Status Realised
    Period of realization 1995 - present
    Evaluation Hydromorphological and ecological changes
    Implemented by Polish Society for Bird Protection

    Key features of the case study

    The Narew river restoration project concentrates on the area of the buffer zone of Narew National Park (NPN). NPN was created in 1996. Narew valley between Suraż village and Żółtki village (area of the NPN and its buffer zone) was fully natural area until implementation of hydrotechnical works that were carried out in the Narew valley from 1960 until 1980. Prior the regulation, the Narew river was of anastomosing character along entire length of this stretch. The main aim of the restoration project was protection of environment in Marshy Valley of the Narew (Natura 2000 site code PLB200001) with a special consideration of hydrological conditions and integrated program of economic development. The work proceeded in stages and focuses on restoring an anastomosing system of Narew river downstream of the NPN in its buffer zone.

    Site description

    Particular conditions of the site: size, river type, type of pressures, ecological status, etc.

    Narew river is located in North-east Poland. Narew is a large lowland river with catchment area exceeding 28 000km2 (up to gauge station in Zambski Kościelne) and length reaching almost 500km. It is the fifth biggest river in Poland. The restored part of the river is located in the upper part of the catchment, between Rzędziany-Pańki levee and the road bridge in Żółtki village in podlaskie voivodeship. In this stretch the Narew river is classified as type 24 Small and medium size river in the area influenced by peat forming process, according to the national river typology. The area of the restored site is 13.4 km2. On this area, the following habitat and vegetation transformations, resulted from river valley reclamation works, were observed:

    • drying out and disappearance of old river beds
    • changes in the species composition and disappearance of mesotrophic rushes Caricetum elatae, strictly connected with long-term flooded fens
    • increase of the number and size of the area of expansive plants species as Calystegia sepinum, Phalaris arundinacea, Urtica dioica, Phragmites australis
    • expansion of the invasive species Echinocystis lobata
    • increase size of the area of extremely poor in species aggregation of Phragmites australis and Urtica dioica
    • decrease of mesotrophic grasslands areas
    • increase of the area of Salix L. and marshy deciduous forests.

    Measures selection

    Motivation/argumentation behind the selection of the measures implemented:

    In the restoration process several different types of measures were implemented in attempt to achieve planned targets and to stop and if possible reverse process of the site degradation. These measures included direct ones implemented in the river to change its physical features (e.g. cleaning old river beds) and indirect ones (e.g. buying out a land in the riparian area) that shall increase chance for successful implementation of the entire restoration. In the first group the most important measures were: - reconstruction of old rivers bed by removing an excess of sediment and vegetation overgrowing these beds and by reconnecting them to the main river bed to make side arms of the Narew river open for the water flow; - building weir structures (underwater thresholds) to increase water level and to divert part of water flow from the main channel into side arms. Additionally, the Rzędziany – Pańki embankment was repaired and reconstructed by replacing small pipe culverts with bridges of suitable throughput to open it for large water flow directed into old river beds; and two dams were built at the end of the side arms to increase water storage capacity and time in the floodplain area. From the indirect measures the most important ones were related to restoring and promoting an extensive agriculture land use in the riparian area. They included: - buying out some parcels in this area, - removing bushy vegetation from this area, and – building small wooden bridges to make the area accessible for farmers for hay making.

    Success criteria

    Brief description of the parameters used to assess the success of the project:

    • water quality improvement (hydrochemical measurements)
    • increasing number of breeding birds
    • increasing flood frequency and duration in riparian zones and floodplains
    • increasing groundwater level
    • slowing down or inhibiting process of marsh formation
    • invertebrate fauna in river corridor
    • increasing number of amphibians
    • river corridors functioning

    Ecological response

    Brief description of observed effects of the measures over different types of organisms:

    • Phytoplankton

    No data found

    • Macrophytes and phytobenthos

    Macrophytes were found in 21 places on the restored area. Plant communities, which exist on a Nature 2000 sites 3150-2, consist of plants species from Lemnetea and Potametea classes. No data found for Phytobenthos

    • Benthic Invertebrates

    Measurements made after restoration showed large number of taxa of benthic invertebrates. This proves a good quality of habitat which is favorable for biodiversity of invertebrates. A well-developed bank zone with seasonally developing vegetation create a good place to larval and an adult creatures development of many species of invertebrates.

    • Fish

    20 species of fish were found. Species were classified to 7 classes: vulnerable (VU)- Lota lota, Chondrostoma nasus, near threatened (NT)- Misgurnus fosilis, Rodeus sericeus, dependent on conservation (CD)- Anguilla anguilla, other 14 species classified as the last concern (LC) species- Esox lucius, Alburnus alburnus, Abramis bjoerkna, Abramis brama, Leuciscus idus, Rutilus rutilus, Perca fluviatilis, Leuciscus cephalus, Aspius aspius, Scardinius erythrophthalmus, Tinca tinca, Gobio gobio, Cobitis taenia, Carasius carasius, critically endangered (CE) and endangered (EN) species were not found. The diversity of fish species is higher than before restoration. 8 more species were found.

    • Other biota

    Hydromorphological response

    Brief description of observed effects of the measures over different hydromorphological elements:

    • Hydrological regime – in the north part of the area flow pattern and extent and duration of floods are resembles the situation that was prior the hydrotechnical works, when the south part of the area functions satisfactory in the cold part of the year. In summer and autumn, the volume of water diverted into old arms is not sufficient to secure continuum of river, too much water is lost by evapotranspiration and connection of old arms and main channel is broken.
    • River continuity – in general is restored in this stretch, but there are some problems in the south part of the site in the warm part of the year (see Hydrological regime).
    • Morphological conditions – they improved significantly, even in the main river channel, and the hydromorphological indices (of RHS method) are higher than in many rivers in the region.

    Monitoring before and after implementation of the project

    Brief description of available records and data ownership:

    Before implementation There were no regular and comprehensive monitoring carried out in this area before the restoration implementation. Only some sporadic monitoring of fish was performed at that time.

    After implementation:

    • Hydrological (water flow, temperature of water, pH, electro conductivity, dissolved oxygen concentration, degree of saturation of water with oxygene, redox potential) and hydrochemical (ammonium, nitrate nitrogen, SRP, DP,TP, dissolved organic carbon, nitrogen) characteristic of Narew river water
    • hydromorphological status (by River Habitat Survey method in profile Rzędzinay village- Pańki village on a multi corridor Narew river)
    • diversity and status of habitats (recognize of actual status and diversity of plant communities and assessment of dynamic processes and succession directions of plant cover)
    • valorization of invertebrate fauna in river corridors
    • status and changes in ichthyofauna (by single electrofishing method)
    • inventory of dragonflies (Odonata)
    • inventory of day butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea)
    • inventory and assessment of changes in batrachofauna
    • inventory and assessment of changes in breeding avifauna

    Full data ownership: Polish Society for Bird Protection (mainly), and Narew National Park, Regional Environment Protection Management in Bialystok

    Socio-economic aspects

    Brief description of socio-economic conditions in the site of the project and how the implementation of the project affects other ecosystem goods and services (e.g. recreation, water purification, flood protection, forestry, etc):

    Ecosystem goods and services:

    • recreation
    • agriculture
    • water for cattle
    • production of dry matter


    • Provisioning services: food, fuel, fresh water
    • Regulating services: water regulation, erosion regulation, water purification and waste treatment
    • Cultural services: cultural diversity, spiritual values, educational values, aesthetic values, cultural heritage values, recreation and ecotourism

    Conflicts and synergies: Synergies:

    • recreation
    • agriculture
    • biodiversity
    • water quality


    • agriculture
    • with local people

    Contact person within the organization

    Mrs. Anna Suchowolec, e-mail:, Polish Society for Bird Protection

    Extra background information

    File:N 7.jpg

    File:N 8.jpg

    Project web page:

    Project costs

    In years 1991-2013 the restoration project of the buffer zone of the Narew National Park was financiered from many sources by following organizations (Suchowolec et al., 2013):

    Polish governmental organizations

    • National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management
    • Regional Fund of Environmental Protection and Water Management in Białystok

    International governmental organizations

    • Government of North Rhine-Westphalia in frame of “Green Lungs of Poland – Narew” Programme

    Polish non-governmental organization

    • EcoFund Foundation

    International non-governmental organization

    • The GEF Small Grants Programme
    • European Nature Heritage Found EURONATUR
    • Vogelschutz-Komitee e.V.
    • EECONET Action Fund
    • The Stork Foundation

    The total cost of this restoration project includes costs of particular stages of restoration. It is to be remembered that total cost is a sum of costs from different years. Therefore, they do not include changes in prices, inflation etc. Only costs from period 1991-1994 were recalculated because of currency denomination that took place in 1995. The old Polish currency złoty (PLZ) was changed into new złoty (PLN), with rate 1PLN=10 000PLZ. After summing all individual costs, incurred during the whole restoration time, it was estimated that the total cost of the restoration reaches almost 4,4 mln PLN.


    • Suchowolec A., Deoniziak K., Grygoruk G., Hermaniuk A., Jekatierynczuk-Rudczyk E., Kamocki A., Karpowicz M., Kolos A., da Costa J. M., Pućkowski M., Sielezniew M., Suchowolec T., Wereszczuk A., Wołkowycki D., Zieliński P., (2012): An assessment of the effects of renaturalization of the buffer zone Narew national Park [in polish], Polskie Towarzystwo Ochrony Ptaków
    • Tylec L., (2013): An assessment of the societal benefits of the Narew river restoration versus the restoration costs using the ecosystem services approach, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Master thesis

    Related Measures

    Related Pressures