Northern Sweden - From source to sea, restoring river Moälven (LIFE05 NAT/S/000109)

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Northern Sweden - From source to sea, restoring river Moälven (LIFE05 NAT/S/000109)

Factsheet: Northern Sweden - From source to sea, restoring river Moälven (LIFE05 NAT/S/000109)

Country SE
River Name Moälven
Site Name Northern Sweden - From source to sea, restoring river Moälven (LIFE05 NAT/S/000109)
River Characterisation
    River typology
    Location (Lat Lon) 63.2954079256475, 18.6685180664062
    Altitude lowland: < 200 m
    Catchment area large: > 1000 - 10000 km2
    Geology Organic
    National code/
    River type name
    Hydromorphological quality elements

    Biological quality elements
    Ecosystem Services
    EU Directives
    Project size 11 km
    Approximate costs > 1 000 000 Euros
    Status Realised
    Period of realization 2005-2008
    Evaluation Ecological change
    Implemented by Örnsköldsviks kommun

    This webpage is currently under construction. Comments with regards to the contents or possible lack would be gratefully appreciated.

    Key features of the case study

    In the following section, background and motives of the restoration project which led to the initiation of the project are introduced

    Drivers and pressures

    The Moälven River has been intensively used by human during the 19th and 20th centuries and activities such as forestry led to severe ecological degradations. Boulders and larger stones were removed from streambeds to allow log floating thus resulting in a loss of habitat for fish and invertebrates. Furthermore, this logging activity caused the river to break a new course during a severe flood in 1868: a waterfall was created making it impossible to fish to migrate upstream. Besides, acidification caused by airborne pollution and forestry of open water has also been a problem for the conservation of biodiversity in Sweden over the last 50 years. Finally, the urbanization of the river basin also affected fauna such as the otter through the development of improper designs of hazardous road crossings over watercourses.

    Moälven catchment area

    Global objectives

    The LIFE project aimed to restore and improve habitats of the river Moälven to pre-industrial conditions in order to protect and to conserve threatened species such as Margaritifera margaritifera, Lutra lutra, Salmo salar and Cottus gobio.

    Specific goals

    In order to counteract human pressures inflicted upon the ecosystems and improve habitats quality along the Moälven River, the project aimed to:

    1. Re-connect river stretches for anadromous fish such as the salmon migrating upstream from the sea to freshwater breeding grounds by installing fish pass.
    2. Re-establish a more natural state of stream reaches by restoring structures, which will reshape the streambed recreating habitats for adult fish, spawning beds and nursery areas.
    3. Establishment of self-sustaining stock of Salmo salar and Salmo trutta, through a large reintroduction plan. Restoring population densities of those fishes was also intended for Margaritifera. margaritifera since they host mussel larvae.
    4. Step up the liming activities to approximately 430 metric tons/annum in order to secure near-neutral water in all seasons and avoid high levels of toxic aluminum
    5. Re-connect stream banks under bridges so that Lutra lutra is able to avoid hazardous road crossings

    Site description

    Measures selection

    The following section introduces which measures were prepared, implemented and whether they were successful in reaching their related goals

    A broad range of measures was implemented under the frame of the LIFE project since the project foresaw six different specific goals. The measures are introduced below grouped by their related goal.

    • The Moälven project built a fish way at Sågfallet to allow salmon and sea trout to migrate upstream into Utterån. The fish way consists of a 132 m long step-pool designed fish ladder with 33 steps. 100 m are located inside a tunnel that passes through the mountain on the west side. Attraction water runs through the whole fish way in a separate pipe.
    Part of fish way inside tunnel
    • To restore the streams, the main work was to (re) place boulders and stones (about ten thousand tons) into the river to recreate natural habitats. Furthermore, in one reach, the mainstream river was redirected in order to recreate a more natural flow. Spawning gravels were also uncovered in order to recreate natural spawning grounds while natural riparian zones were recreated by increasing sinuosity along riverbanks and by opening closed side-channels and small streams.
    • 56 520 sea trout fry and 410 700 salmon fry were released in the frame of the LIFE project to establish self-sustaining stocks. Much of this work was carried out by local fisheries management organizations.
    • In order to secure near-neutral water in all seasons, lime was spread during the winter on the ice of lakes by means of helicopters. The lakes act as lime reservoirs that spread lime further downstream to the waters of Moälven River throughout the year. Besides, a liming facility was installed consisting of a silo with a capacity of 80 tons of lime. The lime is mixed with river water and released into the freshwater ecosystem. Dosage of lime is controlled by water flow. At high water flows, when pH is low, more lime is released while at low water flows, little or no lime is released.
    • In order to reduce the risk of road kill otter, artificial ledges were built at four locations.
    Artificial ledge for otter passage

    Success criteria

    Success criteria were set before the measures implementation with regards to two specific goals. First of all, a Margaritifera. margaritifera population size of 100 000 individuals was foreseen according to project forecasts and based on pre-restoration surveys. The liming activities also intended to increase the pH to an acceptable level of 6.3 in order to have water quality suitable for Salmo salar, Salmo trutta and Margaritifera. margaritifera reproduction.

    Ecological response

    Hydromorphological response

    Monitoring before and after implementation of the project

    Monitoring was carried before and after the implementation of the LIFE project mainly concerning the biotic component of the ecosystem but also regarding to the water quality. The main features of this monitoring are introduced below:

    • Freshwater pearl mussels were inventoried pre and post restoration. Before the restoration, the investigation aimed to know whether there were pearl mussels in the stream sections where biotope restoration were implemented while post restoration monitoring aimed to find out if the restoration led to any enhancement.
    • Fish populations were also monitored pre and post restoration by electro-fishing. Besides, the installation of a fish-catching device in the upper part of the fish pass and an automated fish-counting device in the lower part enabled project managers to find out whether the restoration work was successful.
    • Otter population was inventoried pre restoration to estimate the number of otters in the area studied and to optimize the otter passages locations.
    • Finally, pH and other parameters were monitored on a regular basis in the Moälven River and its main tributaries to analyze water quality improvements.

    Socio-economic aspects

    In the following section, ways of cooperation, interaction and information with partners, stakeholders and wider audience of the project are introduced as well as their related success in reaching their participation objectives.


    The LIFE project was led by Örnsköldsviks kommun in partnerships with a broad range of organization from private forestry company to fisheries managers, etc. The following organizations were committed to this project: the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, The Swedish Board of Fisheries, Moälvsfisket, Nature Fund of Örnsköldsvik, Holmen Skog Ltd, the Swedish Forest Agency, the Swedish Road Administration and the County Administrative Board of Västernorrland. Every partner added its knowledge, inputs to project design and implementations. As example, the Swedish Forest Agency was in charge of a large education program of forestry managers.


    Forestry managers, private landowners and fisheries managers were involved in the project through trainings. Members of local fishery management organizations were trained in fish habitat restoration in a small watercourse while foresters were informed of the negative effects that forestry could have on aquatic life and how such effects can be avoided. Such trainings will play a key role in future river management along the Moälven River through changes in practices that cannot be evaluated so far.


    Besides the improvement of habitats, the LIFE project also aimed to educate and inform people living along the Moälven River. Information concerning the LIFE project has also reached a large public through project website, information boards, pamphlets, signposts with fishing rules and public meetings held at an early stage of the project. Furthermore, the public accessibility of the river were improved by the preparation of new parking-sites and hundreds of signposts with information concerning fishing locations, historical sites and places of large ecological importance.


    The following section gives an overview of cost and funding of the project

    Cost: 1 958 733 Euros
    European Union: 50 %
    Swedish Environmental Agency: 20 %
    Swedish National Board of Fisheries: 20 %
    Municipality of Örnsköldsviks: 10 %

    Contact person within the organization

    Örnsköldsviks kommun
    Håkan JANSSON, project manager/coordinator
    Telephone: 0046 66088725

    Extra background information

    The LIFE project was completed in 2008. Nevertheless, the restoration continues in the parts of Moälven not affected by the LIFE Nature project. Fish migration barriers especially need to be dealt with and stream habitats need to be restored in Norra and Södra Anundsjöån. Besides, the monitoring of restoration successes is still on going through the evaluation of fish reproduction success, counting of fish using the fish pass, etc.

    Despite the success of the restoration measures especially seen through the salmon return, Moälven river managers are now facing a new constraint. Since salmons are back, fishermen interests are growing, which could affect the newly restored population of salmon. Therefore, river managers are currently working on the development of a new fishing regulation that must be adopted by the Swedish National Board of Fisheries.


    Related Measures

    Related Pressures