The addition of substrates to small instream obstacles, like low-head ramped weirs, has been considered a useful management solution to retrofit those structures and enhance fish passage. Substrate dimensions and spatial arrangement, together with discharge, and consequently water depths, appear as important factors for the creation of hydrodynamic conditions that may facilitate the successful passage of fish, though related studies are scarce to support decision-making. This study assessed the influence of discharge (Q) and different retrofitting designs (RD) on the upstream passage performance of a potamodromous cyprinid, the Iberian barbel (Luciobarbus bocagei
). Different substrates (small boulders, large boulders, cobbles) and spatial arrangements (aligned, offset) were tested. Numerical modelling was performed to characterize the hydrodynamics. Results indicate that Q and RD influenced the upstream negotiation of ramped weirs. Cobbles randomly distributed along the ramp (Nature design) was the most successful configuration, recording the highest number of upstream passages. Low velocities along the ramp, and low turbulence downstream, were registered in this configuration, indicating that the use of natural substrate may help to increase the permeability of ramped weirs to fish movements. The outcomes from this work can help engineers and biologists to design more appropriate passage structures for low-head instream obstacles.
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