River Restoration and Biodiversity

The IUCN NCUK River Restoration and Biodiversity project has been running for more than four years and the project working group is currently chaired by Angus Tree from Scottish Natural Heritage. It is a 5 country project which includes Eire as well as the four UK nations.

If you are wondering what river restoration is all about there is a video of the Edleston river restoration project here which provides some good examples of the principles behind the work and what their application look like in practice. You can also find out more from reading the River Restoration and Biodiversity report which the project has produced.

Dissemination of information about the project is now expected to increase, including on this dedicated IUCN NCUK webpage, an article in the Freshwater Biological Association newsletter, and posters at conferences such as the CIEEM conference (Wading into Water: The Assessment and Management of our Aquatic Environment) in Ireland.

The project has appointed consultant Tamsin Morris to assist with applying for funds for Phase 3 of the project and assessment of the two tenders received is now underway.

The recently published Easter Beltie river valley restoration project is available here

Project update May 2019                                                                                                     

Seeking restoration appraisal best practice – expert workshop.

As part of Phase 3 of the River Restoration and Biodiversity project we want to ensure that we collect the correct evidence we need for any project we assess.

We want to develop a best practice monitoring protocol to enable us, and any other practitioners, to gather and analyse meaningful data using scientific rigour to appraise restoration success.

At the end of 2018 we held a workshop with experts in river restoration appraisal from the UK and Republic of Ireland. The aim of the workshop was to explore best practice and incorporate academic knowledge to inform an operational monitoring protocol for appraising restoration success for biodiversity. You can read the Phase 3 Monitoring Protocol Workshop summary report

Discussions concentrated on what will complement existing guidance such as the River Restoration Centre’s Practical River Restoration Appraisal Guidance for Monitoring Options and what we already know – the “givens”.

The givens:

  1. We are focused on techniques that restore natural processes
  2. We are not re-writing existing guidance
  3. We need to monitor and evaluate to assess and demonstrate project outputs or effectiveness, to allow an adaptive management approach, and to identify the need for further restoration
  4. Effective monitoring is needed to improve our overall scientific understanding of the benefits of restoration
  5. Monitoring needs to be part of an integrated project planning process.
  6. Monitoring should have SMART objectives linked to project goals, objectives and predicted outcomes
  7. Monitoring should be integrated and include both the environmental/habitat and biota assessments
  8. Fixed point photography should always be undertaken
  9. Monitoring should follow a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) design
  10. We need to share the results of the appraisals, e.g. via the RiverWiki , an online tool used for sharing information on river restoration projects across Europe.

Following lively discussions and debate some key messages were evident:

  • Ultimately we need to know how we change habitat provision and the occupancy of the habitats.
  • We need to assess physical changes and how these relate to biological change.
  • When assessing habitat change, consultations with geomorphologists are essential..

To assess biological response we recommend collecting 3 years’ baseline data and a minimum of 3 years’ post-restoration data – longer if possible as some changes may take more time.

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