The Segura river basin covers a surface area of approximately 18 870 km2. It is located in south-east Spain and is defined as the area comprising all the rivers entering the Mediterranean between the mouths of the Gola del Segura and River Almanzora. Its territory is mostly part of the autonomous community of Murcia, but it also stretches into Andalusia, Albacete and Valencia (the province of Alicante). The area around the Segura rver basin has historically experienced significant climatic extremes and water imbalances, going from extended periods of drought, through torrential rains and frequent flooding. This spatial and seasonal variability has, for centuries, led to efforts to control the river in order to make use of it for human activity. For this reason, the river basin has numerous dams, weirs and other fluvial obstacles. This human intervention - and in particular the construction of reservoirs at its headwaters - has significantly altered water flow regimes throughout the basin, creating severe problems of connectivity. It has also affected the natural cycles of floods and droughts, which are characteristic of south-east Spain. This has led to severe and diverse environmental problems in the river and its surroundings.
The LIFE SEGURA RIVERLINK project aimed to promote and support the environmental recovery of the Segura river basin. Specifically, this involved demonstrating and validating 3 management measures for developing a green infrastructure approach to river basin management. The project set out to remove one weir, construct fish passages across eight others, and implement supporting fluvial restoration practices. The river basin management measures were to be implemented on selected sites over 54 km in protected and non-protected areas. The area covered includes rivers in urban areas, as a means of facilitating stakeholder engagement. The expected outcome would be to increase river permeability and longitudinal continuity, help the recovery of the natural ecosystem, restore biodiversity resilience and increase the mobility of species along the river. The project also aimed to reverse landscape fragmentation by reviving the green corridor role of the river and the connectivity between protected areas. If shown by monitoring to be successful, the beneficiary planned to lobby for the inclusion of its measures in the official river basin management plan of the Segura River. The project would also develop a Land Custody Network to involve private owners in river management, foster the uptake of good practice and increase links between the river and neighbouring lands. The project intended to pave the way for restoration of the longitudinal permeability along the whole river length – 325 km – over a 15-year period. As well as promoting the recovery of the ecological functions of the wider Segura river basin, the project aimed to make a broader contribution by demonstrating the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD).
Thanks to the LIFE SEGURA RIVERLINK project, fish now have free passage along a 54 km stretch of the Segura River. This was achieved by dismantling one disused weir and adding fish ladders to eight dams - monitoring showed that the fish passages are being used by the river's fish community. The project carried out restoration actions across 75 ha of the river basin to restore riparian ecosystems and increase biodiversity. This involved removing the invasive species giant cane (Arundo donax), and planting nearly 5 000 native plants. The beneficiaries also removed 15 000 invasive alien fish from the Segura river. A major achievement of the project was securing a legislative change to the Segura river basin management plan. The plan now specifies that dams of under 17 m and weirs on flowing waters should have lifts for fish that 'allow the passage of native fauna and make it difficult for invasive alien species to pass through'. Enhanced rural tourism in the project area, with potential for the creation of new jobs. Some recreational activities such as fishing and kayaking (which are very popular in the area) have benefitted from the removal of river obstacles. The beneficiaries assessed the economic impact of the substitution of giant cane with native riverbank forest. According to their calculations, the project's restoration of 75 hectares entailed water savings corresponding to €457 000 per year, as the evapotranspiration of giant cane is around 6 times higher than the average of the native vegetation. The project set up a river management network to address stakeholders' needs and established good relations with citizens living alongside the Segura river. It also established a land custody network, involving 11 landowners across a 66-ha area. These will be crucial to the successful long-term implementation of the Segura river basin management plan and to achieving 'good ecological status' of the river, in line with the aims of the Water Framework Directive. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).