Maintaining and improving habitat
There are a number of simple and low cost ways of improving habitat which are applicable in many situations. These are described in the habitat manuals, but here is a list of some of the common actions to consider:
- Fence the banks to prevent excessive livestock damage, but remember to allow access for periodic controlled grazing to control the resulting vegetation.
- Manage bank-side trees to give a 60% shade / 40% light mix. This will involve coppicing in some areas, planting in others.
- Leave bank-side herbs and shrubs to give a ‘shaggy’ fringe.
- Install large and coarse wood debris in the channel. Most rivers lack woody debris, which is a vital element for providing cover, creating variations in flow and food for invertebrates.
- Improve spawning, either by introducing clean gravels or make the most of gravel in situ by ensuring it is silt free.
- Minimise the impact of weirs and other barriers by removal (ideally) or ‘notching’ or creating easements.
- Create variations in flow and depth by using natural and local materials such as logs and stone.
Resist the temptation to ‘tidy’ too much or at all! This is habitat for wild creatures, not a garden. A bit of benign neglect is better than too much tidiness.
If the river is fished, then you obviously need to keep a balance between habitat for fish and access for fisherman. One way to do this is to have sections where only one bank managed for fishing access, or short stretches which are left unmanaged as refuge areas for fish from fisherman — and other predators!
It is important to get advice and consent before carrying out any habitat improvement works.
If you notice any obvious pollution, report it. Do not delay !
Call 0800 80 70 60 wherever you are in the UK.
It is very important for all pollution incidents to be logged even if no immediate action is taken. Any subsequent legal action will use the call report as evidence and patterns of incidents may become important for action to be taken.
The simplest way to monitor the quality of your water regularly is to carry out a survey using the simple techniques devised by the Anglers Riverfly Monitoring Initiative from the Riverfly Partnership.
By understanding the ‘normal’ abundance and diversity of invertebrates in your river through regular sampling, you will very quickly pick up when something goes wrong. And, very importantly, you will have the data from previous samples to prove that something is wrong.
Send your results to your local EA contact and establish with them the overall score, below which you should contact them and report a problem.
If you have a potential source of pollution on your stretch of river, then monitor immediately down-stream of it.
This video with Action For the River Kennet (ARK) gives a good overview of the Riverfly Partnership monitoring process and the benefits of regular sampling.
There is little you can do about too much, or too little rain except to make sure that your river or lake functions effectively in high and low flows by having good natural habitat.
With determination you can try to influence how the available water is used in your catchment. This is not easy nor does it deliver quick rewards, but it is vital.
- Action begins with you – get a water meter for your own home or business, use water carefully as it is a precious resource and influence others to do the same.
- In England, understand the content of your local Catchment Management Plan (CAMS) and support and nag your local EA team to address issues of around licensing and over-abstraction.
- Join and support your local Rivers Trust and the Angling Trust, to help them keep lobbying about the importance of managing water resources.
- Influence your local council to carry out sustainable development and take water resources into consideration in any planning applications they are asked to approve.
- Take part in the regular review of Water Companies’ strategic plans and any consultations run by OFWAT.