Abstract Throughout the last centuries most large rivers have increasingly become humandominated ecosystems as a result of land reclamation, floodplain drainage, hydropower production, and channelization for navigation. Their domestication, i.e. their optimization for few ecosystem services, has fundamentally altered habitat conditions and led to the formation of novel biotic communities as well as to the truncation of vital ecosystem processes. Current conservation and management strategies do not yet cope with the dramatic alterations of large rivers. Concurrently, river management competes with the more human-focused targets and directives in the energy, flood control and agricultural sectors. Therefore, there is an urgent need for innovative, adaptive strategies to sustainably manage domesticated large rivers through increasing levels of active intervention.