General information

Course type EPICUR
Module title Human impact on rivers of Europe
Language English
Module lecturer prof. UAM dr hab. Marcin Słowik
Lecturer's email
Lecturer position Associate Professor
Faculty Faculty of Geographical and Geological Sciences
Semester 2024/2025 (winter)
Duration 30



Module aim (aims)

The main goal of the course is to present the influence of human-induced actions (i.e. constructions of canals, water dams, networks of drainage ditches) on changes in hydrological regimes, morphology of river channels and land-use within river valleys of Europe. Another important goal is to show how river courses looked like before the period of intensive hydro technical works that started around 250 years ago. This will be presented showing the examples of river courses from Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and other countries of Europe. What research techniques can be used to reconstruct the evolution of rivers prior to the canals and dams constructions? How the knowledge about the past of rivers can be used in river restoration projects? All students of geography, geology, earth sciences, environmental management, hydrology, and spatial planning are warmly welcome to take this course.

Pre-requisites in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences (where relevant)

Basic knowledge about the natural environment of Europe.


Weeks 1 and 2: Introduction: main hydrological regimes, types of river channels (planforms)




Weeks 3 and 4: Introduction (continued): types of human-induced changes (constructions of canals and dams, artificial levees, extraction of sediments from river bed), basic types of river reactions to these changes.




 Weeks 5 and 6: changes in land use within river valleys and their influence of the evolution of rivers




 Weeks 7 and 8: Overview of methods useful to reconstruct the evolution of past river systems, active prior to the major hydro technical works (geological methods, geophysical methods, analyses of aerial images, sediment dating techniques)




 Weeks 9 and 10: Examples of reconstruction of past river systems. Examples of the evolution of anastomosing, anabranching and meandering rivers of Europe prior the constructions of dams and canals.




 Weeks 11 and 12: the use of palaeohydrological reconstructions for restoration projects: how to plan a realistic restoration scenario? Types of restoration plans/scenarios. Examples and reasons of failed restoration actions. Post-restoration monitoring of processes forming river channels.




 Weeks 13 and 14: Examples of dam removal actions and influence of these actions on hydrological and sediment transport regime. Advantages and disadvantages of dam removal. Reactions of society to restoration actions. 

Reading list

Supporting literature (not obligatory):

Brierley G., Fryirs K., Outhet D., Massey C., 2002, Application of the River Styles framework as a basis for river management in New South Wales, Australia. Applied Geography, 22, 91-122.

Downs P.W., Thorne C.R., 2000, Rehabilitation of a lowland river: Reconciling flood defense with habitat diversity and geomorphological sustainability. Journal of Environmental Management, 58, 249-268.

Gradziński R., Baryła J., Doktor M., Gmur D., Gradziński M., Kędzior A., Paszkowski M., Soja R., Zieliński T, Żurek S., 2003, Vegetation-controlled modern anastomosing system of the upper Narew River (NE Poland) and its sediments. Sedimentary Geology, 157, 253-276.

Hoffmann T., Thorndycraft V.R., Brown A.G., Coulthard T.J., Damnati B., Kale V.S., Middelkoop H., Notebaert B., Walling D.E., 2010, Human impact on fluvial regimes and sediment flux during the Holocene: Review and future research agenda. Global and Planetary Change, 72, 87-98.

Kaniecki A., Brychcy D., 2010, Średniowieczne młyny wodne i ich wpływ na przemiany stosunków wodnych na przykładzie zlewni Obry Skwierzyńskiej (Summary in English: Medieval water mills and their influence on water relationships alteration on the basis of Obra Skwierzyńska Catchment). Badania Fizjograficzne Seria A – Geografia Fizyczna, A61, 145-156.

Mikuś P., Wyżga B., Bylak A., Kukuła K., Liro M., Oglęcki P., Radecki-Pawlik A., Impact of the restoration of an incised mountain stream on habitats, aquatic fauna and ecological stream quality. Ecological Engineering, 170, 106365, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2021.106365

Neal A., 2004, Ground-penetrating radar and its use in sedimentology: principles, problems and progress. Earth-Science Reviews, 66, 261–330.

Podolak K., Kondolf M.G., 2016, The Line of Beauty in River Designs: Hogarth’s Aesthetic Theory on Capability Brown’s Eighteenth-Century River Design and Twentieth-Century River Restoration Design. Landscape Research, Landscape Research, 41, 149-167.

Słowik M., 2011, Changes of river bed pattern and traces of anthropogenic intervention: The example of using GPR method (the Obra River, western Poland). Applied Geography, 31, 784-799.

Słowik M., 2013, GPR and aerial imageries to identify the recent historical course of the Obra River and changes of spatial extent of Obrzańskie Lake, altered by hydro-technical works. Environmental Earth Sciences, 70, 1277-1295.

Słowik M., Dezső J., Kovács J., Gałka M., 2020, The formation of low-energy meanders in loess landscapes (Transdanubia, central Europe). Global and Planetary Change, 184, 103071  DOI: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2019.103071

Słowik M., Gałka M., Marciniak A., 2020, The evolution and disappearance of „false delta” multi-channel systems in postglacial areas (central Europe). Global and Planetary Change, 184, 103044, DOI: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2019.103044

Słowik M., Dezső J., Kovács J., Gałka M., Sipos G., 2021, Phases of fluvial activity in loess landscapes: findings from the Sió Valley (Transdanubia, central Europe). Catena, 198, 105054 DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2020.105054

Woelfle-Erskine C., Wilcox A.C., Moore J.N., 2012, Combining historical and process perspectives to infer ranges of geomorphic variability and inform river restoration in a wandering gravel-bed river. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 37, 1302-1312.