Engaging with Rivers – JBA at the River Restoration conference

Our catchment and river restoration team attended the River Restoration Conference last week where we gave four presentations and showcased several posters, as well as hosting the JBA Trust’s augmented reality sandbox on our exhibition stand.

If you missed any of the talks and posters, we compiled them all into an interactive document below.

With Steve Rose, Technical Director, highlighting his favourite quote of the event as being from Colin Thorne, “Think outside the channel!”, we encouraged other colleagues to share their top three aspects of the conference.

Rachelle Ngai – Environmental Consultant

Site visit to Croxall Lakes: A Natural Flood Management (NFM) scheme within the nature reserve
A long-term scheme that began in 1998, the main aim was to recreate habitats that were once commonplace prior to the modification of the river in the 19th and 20th centuries. As the information sheet said, they wanted to “unshackle the river from its engineered channel and allow it the freedom to express itself over time and allow it to generate its own habitat.”

They have widened 540m of the river across an area of 1.85ha and created 1.2ha of shallows to create suitable conditions for new reedbeds. JBA was one of the science partners of the scheme, conducting the baseline geomorphological survey, and it was nice to see yet another example of an NFM scheme that we have contributed to.

Professor Colin Thorne
Colin talked about multi-channel restoration, rather than just restoring the one main river channel, through floodplain reconnection and channel infilling, and the multiple benefits it brings.

Keynote speaker, Professor Paul Leinster’s talk on Natural Capital
Snippets from his talk include:

“If we focus on ecosystem services, we will run out of natural assets. It may be difficult, dangerous, ‘illegal’, soul-destroying to put a value on biodiversity – but it is also vital.”

“Ecosystems’ services cannot be considered in isolation, without also knowing what natural capital exists.”

“Just as we maintain our car, just as we maintain our bank balance, we need to maintain our natural capital.”

Jenny Broomby – Environmental Research and
Sustainability Assistant

Watching adults turn into gleeful children
When they realised that the sandbox didn’t just change colours according to the movement of the sand, but that their hands could make it rain too!

Site visit to Titchfield Park and Day Brook
It was great to be able to see NFM working so well in urban areas. It was astounding to see pictures of the sites prior to the NFM transformation. Apart from the sound of nearby roads, you wouldn’t have known that you were stood in an urban area. Lots of members of the public were using the areas as we walked through – a demonstration of the amenity value that NFM projects can bring.

Being able to present my work to over 300 people
Following my presentation, I was able to discuss my work with many delegates in the context of their schemes, offering advice and learning even more about the human/organisational side of NFM.

Jon Whitmore – Lead in Hydroecology

Sarah Scott from the Environment Agency
Sarah reported that pre- and post-change monitoring of Daubenton’s Bat on the River Teise in Kent associated with a weir removal project, indicated that the population was negatively impacted upon by the project. The Environment Agency and its partners are currently producing guidance on the impact of weir removal projects on bats to be published this year.

Worldwide culvert removal maps
Daylighting is a website established by the University of Sheffield that maps examples of culvert removal projects undertaken worldwide. It is a simple interface that users can upload to and is worth a look.

A free field data collection app available for Android and IoS, EpiCollect5 has been developed by the University College London and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Georeferenced data can be entered online and offline and downloaded for manipulation. The Zoological Society of London, in partnership with Thames Water, equipped volunteers with the app to record outfalls for the purposes of identifying and mapping polluting mis-connections.

Anissia Halwyn – Eco-geomorphologist

I went to an interesting workshop called ‘Focus on Floodplains’, which was highlighting the need to shift away from channel restoration and into larger scale floodplain restoration – or floodplain rehabilitation as we should perhaps call it, as it’s unlikely we can restore the damage already done.

The majority of floodplains in this country are modified due to urbanisation and agriculture – even in places we perceive as ‘wild’ such as the Lake District and Dartmoor, so it’s a big task!

Interesting discussions were had on how largescale floodplain restoration should be approached and encouraged nationally. Ideas included:

  • Citizen science – need to change people’s perception of how the countryside should look. Not pretty fields, but ungrazed grassland and woodland.
  • Incentives for farmers
  • Natural capital – cost-benefit analyses
  • Government initiative to buy up floodplains
  • More flagship floodplain rehabilitation schemes providing evidence of success from monitoring.

Want to know more?

Email Kieran Sheehan for more information on our catchment and river restoration team or visit out catchment and river restoration webpage where you can watch a video outlining our services throughout the sector.

If you missed the JBA Trust sandbox, here’s a short video for you to see what it’s all about.

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