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AMBER pilot study

In this pilot project, we're using citizen science to gather important information about Norwegian rivers and streams.

Using a smartphone to take photos and map migration barriers
Project period
Norwegian Environment Agency
Research section
Freshwater Ecology
Contact person
Johnny Håll

About the project

With the Barrier Tracker app, we can work together to record migration barriers around the country.

Thousands of culverts, thresholds, dams and other barriers prevent the free flow of water in Norwegian rivers and streams. Researchers now want your help to register so-called migration barriers in Norway's waterways.

Download the AMBER Barrier Tracker app (in Norwegian) here:

App store

Google Play

See instructional video for using the app.

What is a migration barrier?

Barriers to migration are anything that can impede the free flow of a watercourse. For example, a river that runs under a road through a culvert, or something as simple as a fence across a stream.

A migration barrier can affect water flow, flooding, transport of sediments and organic material, and access to areas for foraging, spawning, and overwintering for fish.

Here are some more examples of such obstacles:

  • Structures that prevent erosion of the riverbank to protect buildings, roads, or farmland
  • Thresholds that slow down water speed and act as sediment traps, as well as creating decorative ponds
  • Culverts that lead rivers and streams under buildings, roads, or railways
  • Fences erected across streams to demarcate grazing areas
  • Dams that are used for electricity production (hydroelectric power plants), to regulate water flow, or as drinking water reservoirs

When water can no longer flow freely, it affects the natural processes in rivers and streams.

The living conditions for fish, insects, plants, and other organisms can, for example, change from flowing to slow-moving or stagnant water. It can thus change the entire ecosystem.

Threshold dam at Nydalen, Oslo
This threshold dam at Nydalen in Oslo is an example of a migration barrier.

Why are we mapping them?

To better understand the effects, it's important to know how many migration barriers there are and where they are.

Researchers estimate that there are over one million such barriers in European rivers. Many of these are necessary for accessibility and infrastructure. However, thousands of them are in poor condition or no longer functional. These can be removed or upgraded to improve the natural conditions of the rivers.

By e.g. removing disused migration barriers, the EU aims to restore 25,000 kilometres of rivers and associated wetland areas to their natural state by 2030.

We do not know how many such obstacles there are in Norway, but a report from NINA (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research) estimates that there may be around 18,000.

How can we map the barriers together?

Many people have already put a great deal of effort into trying to find out more about migration barriers in Europe. The AMBER research project has developed an app that can be used by anyone interested in contributing and learning more about the condition of rivers and streams in their neighbourhood. 

The app is available in several languages. With support from the Norwegian Environment Agency, NIVA has contributed to the Norwegian version of the app, which was launched in the autumn of 2021.

The aim is to collect information on migration barriers throughout Europe. The data is quality-assured by researchers and entered into an open database, so that anyone who wants to can find out more about the migration barriers that have been registered.

Gelstrup Dambrug in Denmark
Gelstrup Dambrug in Denmark is an example of a place where migration barriers have been removed. Pictures before and after removal.

Why do we use citizen science?

The Norwegian pilot project is a follow-up to a feasibility study for the Norwegian Environment Agency (2019-20) on the possible use of citizen science in water management.

In addition to getting a better overview of existing migration barriers and gathering all registrations in one database, the goal is to test citizen science in practice.

Citizen science is about involving different groups in society in contributing to research, for example by collecting data. This gives researchers and others working with natural resources and the environment access to more information than they would have been able to collect on their own.

There are thousands of watercourses in Norway, and collecting information about all of them is an enormous task. Often the people who live in the vicinity of a stream or a river, are those who know it best

Citizen science facilitates participation in the projects, and at the same time it can help more people learn about environmental research and nature management. This type of research is becoming increasingly common, and through this project we will also study how citizen science and data collection work in the app.


  • The pilot project is a follow-up to a feasibility study for the Norwegian Environment Agency (2019-20) on the possible use of citizen science in water management
  • The aim is to test citizen science in practice through the mapping of migration barriers, in addition to getting a better overview of existing migration barriers and collecting all registrations in one database
  • By utilising an existing app (AMBER Barrier Tracker), the project was able to quickly put in place a user-friendly solution that is also linked to a larger European database (AMBER Atlas)
  • By collecting experiences, the researchers hope to learn more about how citizen science can contribute to water management. A report on the experiences will be published by NIVA in 2023

Amber Barrier Tracker

  • Developed as part of the EU-funded project AMBER (Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers)
  • Available in Norwegian from September 2021 (with support from the Norwegian Environment Agency)
  • Users can track their own registrations and collect points, but it is also possible to use the app anonymously
  • The submitted data is verified before it is uploaded to the European AMBER Atlas database
  • Instructions for using the app can be found here