WTT Blog

WTT 'twixt research & conservation

Posted on February 22, 2018

WTT 'twixt research & conservation

The observant amongst you may have noticed and even (hopefully) read the blog I posted from MSc students at Queen Mary University of London after they had completed an electrofishing survey with me as part of a training exercise. Each year, at the same time, a cohort of Freshwater & Marine Ecology students ‘(re)samples’ Woodplumpton Brook where I have been working with Wyre RT to improve the watercourse habitat and connectivity. Well, two of the most recent students were so enthused by the experience and some of the work that I do at the WTT that they have signed up to complete their MSc projects under my supervision and with Dr Chris Eizaguirre (QMUL).

Both of the projects I will outline below have actually been in existence for a while, and both use my academic expertise in stable isotopes. Stay with me! Each is in partnership with other organisations, and so the students will benefit from work experience outside of the purely academic arena, as well as from developing an extended network of contacts which may well be useful further down the line at job-hunting time!

Why Presume to Remove Weirs? (with River Dove Case Study)

Posted on February 02, 2018

Weirs and the Backwards Ways that Rivers WorkOne of my favourite sayings on river restoration is a mangled quote from a movie

"...boxing is an unnatural act. Everything in boxing is backwards: sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step backwards...but step back too far and you ain't fighting at all".

So my mangled version starts out "Everything in rivers is backwards...". Basically, I never seem to run out of new examples of "what SEEMS to happen in a river is actually the complete opposite of what really happens".



The rest of this article looks at many of the "backwards" things about weirs and rivers - and finishes off with a real-world case-study that is playing out right now on the River Dove.

One spoiler alert is that, from an ecological point of view, it is almost always safe to assume that:

The best biological outcome for a river is the removal of some or all of an artificial weir. 
Now, I don't expect you to believe that right off the bat and then go about your day...

...and there are...

CATCH in Wincanton and News of the First Recorded Wild Brown Trout Following Their Hard Work

Posted on January 24, 2018

Blog posts are like London Buses it seems!

This one is just a very short "Congratulations" to the Folks at CATCH (Community Action to Transform the Cale Habitat) and the video put out by Wincanton Window (embedded below).



All of the folks in the partnership mentioned in the video have done HUGE amounts of work (from classroom education projects to habitat working parties and endless enthusiasm for engaging more people in their local river and much more besides).

A big disclaimer from me is that, although this project is supported by/affiliated with our Trout in the Town project - it has been Mike Blackmore who has fulfilled that role for the WTT rather than myself.

So massive well done to all involved (especially you Gary Hunt!)- it is wonderful to see all of the fish and wildlife coming back to the Cale. Of course, it is absolutely delightful to see that wild brown trout put in an appearance as well!

It seems to be all the rage for recovering urban stream projects in the "Trout in the Town" family - as this recent example from the Lyme Brook in Staffordshire also shows.

Paul

Birmingham and Coventry's Urban Waterways

Posted on January 23, 2018

It's about time for a new blog post and I thought it would be good to flag up some of the investigations that I've been doing in conjunction with Waterside Care (which, in itself, is supported by Keep Britain Tidy).

As well as initial investigations on the River Cole around the Shire Country Park and Burberry Brickworks, more recent forays to the little Westley Brook, River Sowe, Stonehouse Brook and a little stream in the Holly Wood Local Nature Reserve (between Great Barr and Queslett) have seen me criss-crossing the M6 and M69 and the surrounding areas.


What always surprises me is just how much of the Black Country/Coventry area is essentially "floating" on a vast network of underground watercourses which suddenly pop up into daylight in surprising places. Of course this puts a lot of pressure onto the biology of these streams - not only from the physical "encasing" of their channels in brick and concrete (both above and below ground).

It is the ever-present threat of intermittent and chronic pollution that arrives in these modified watercourses that is a really...

Communities created by crowfoot?

Posted on January 22, 2018

Communities created by crowfoot?

There are few more captivating sights than a river reach swathed in water crowfoot flowers, for what delights might be hidden beneath?  William Barnes (1801–1886) was certainly inspired:

O small-feac’d flow’r that now dost bloom,To stud wi’ white the shallow Frome,An’ leäve the clote to spread his flow’rOn darksome pools o’ stwoneless Stour,When sof’ly-rizèn airs do coolThe water in the sheenèn pool,Thy beds o’ snow white buds do gleamSo feäir upon the sky-blue stream,As whitest clouds, a-hangèn highAvore the blueness of the sky

This humble member of the buttercup family is considered by ecologists as an autogenic engineer: it can change the surrounding environment via its own physical structure. While many people have tried to study where and why water crowfoot grows, especially in relation to nutrients, few have considered how the plant influences the assemblages of organisms around it. Cue Jessica Marsh’s PhD study….

Should I stay or should I go?

Posted on January 05, 2018

Should I stay or should I go?

'Can I migrate?' is a question that we at WTT often raise on behalf of fish. In most instances, this question is associated with two physical factors. One is whether there is sufficient water in the river for fish to move through; a problem exacerbated in the southern parts of the UK by abstraction pressures. The other is whether there are any barriers or obstacles to free fish passage - and there are usually plenty! But 'Should I migrate or not?'  is an interesting one that does not get asked very often. Luckily I know someone who does ask such questions! With great pleasure, I hand over to Kim Birnie-Gauvin from the National Institute for Aquatic Resources at the Technical University of Denmark who is conducting her PhD research within the AMBER project.

Physiology & partial migration: from the free radical theory of ageing to residancy and migration in brown trout....

Woodplumpton Brook Restoration: Baffle-ing Results!

Posted on December 18, 2017

Woodplumpton Brook Restoration: Baffle-ing Results!

With my ‘Research’ & Conservation Officer cap on, I can straddle the often hefty divide between academia and NGO/grass roots conservation groups and do a little bit to pull them together. Queen Mary University of London buy out some of my time and expertise from WTT to give their aquatic ecology MSc students practical training and experience in the field. As a part of a week-long fieldcourse based in the Lake District, I have forged a link between them and Wyre Rivers Trust but I’ll let some of the excellent members of this year’s cohort tell you about it, below. Thanks to Dr Christophe Eizaguirre and the rest of the students who worked efficiently on the day to provide the data, and of course, to Tom Myerscough from Wyre RT for sorting out the relevant permissions.

The Wyre is one of the key rivers of Lancashire, with its catchment covering much of the North of the county. It has historically been known as one of the best sea-trout fisheries in England. However, in the post-war 20th Century, like most rivers it suffered from intensified agriculture, urbanisation and new engineering methods, and these changes have cumulatively affected fish communities.

Where in the sea are sea trout?

Posted on December 11, 2017

Where in the sea are sea trout?

As anglers, we often struggle to find fish in a stream, river or lake / loch, and we're generally seeking the bigger fish! Keeping track of the vulnerable juvenile life-stages is even more tricky, and then imagine translocating that problem to the sea.... OK, so with advances in acoustic telemetry, the boffins have a few tricks up their sleeves and are making some headway but the logistics of tracking in such a potentially vast environment are nonetheless challenging. Isabel Moore from the Scottish Centre for Ecology & The Natural Enviornment has risen to that challenge during her PhD and outlines one aspect below.

The brown trout is a remarkably diverse species; it can utilise multiple life-history strategies, ranging from freshwater residency through to migration into marine environments for a period of time before returning to freshwater to reproduce (i.e. anadromous sea trout). Unfortunately, this iconic species has been faced with significant population declines in recent decades across the UK and other parts of the world. A significant portion of the anadromous population decline is thought to occur in marine environments. However, the sheer areal extent of habitats utilised by sea trout makes the monitoring of their movements very difficult, leaving many unanswered questions about the types of challenges that sea trout face and how those challenges might affect the their survival rates. Both environmental (i.e. predation, climate change, etc.) and anthropogenic influences (i.e. overfishing, aquaculture, etc.) have been identified as potential sources of increased mortality, but further research is required to determine the effect of each on wild sea trout.

Resident brown trout (left) and anadromous sea trout with acoustic tag on the rule below (right)

Capturing Catchment Connectivity Issues

Posted on November 13, 2017

Capturing Catchment Connectivity Issues

Here at WTT, we're (no pun intended!) all for reconnecting fragmented systems: see recent news items from Tim Jacklin's work on letting the Dove flow, applications of Mike Blackmore's patented #weirbegone, or some of my recent work with Aire Rivers Trust as just a few examples. Europe wide, indeed globally, there is growing recognition of such issues but do we know even the true extent of the problem? Hence, it's great to hear from Siobhán Atkinson regarding her current PhD research.

River connectivity is vital for sustaining healthy freshwater ecosystems. It is important for maintaining resident as well as migratory fish populations, natural sediment movement, and habitat for macroinvertebrate communities and other aquatic organisms. Despite this, few rivers remain uninterrupted across Europe.

Porter Brook Deculverting on Brazilian TV

Posted on October 30, 2017

The deculverting and stream habitat improvement project was picked up by the European news team for Brazilian (!) channel Sistema Brasileiro Televisão or "SBT". Their piece looked at what had been done in Sheffield by the partnership project between Sheffield City Council, EA and Wild Trout Trust to see what could be applied in Brazilian cities and their watercourses.

The Tagline was "What can Sao Paolo Learn from Sheffield? How Industrial Sheffield Uncovered its Rivers" and went out to their reported audience of around 20-million viewers.

If you fancy brushing up on your Portuguese, you can check out the report here:


The embedded news item can be viewed on the SBT site by Clicking Here.

Paul

Malcolm Greenhalgh's September Blog

Posted on October 11, 2017

SEPTEMBER 2017

I am writing this blog on the 28th, and in the 28 days thus far we here in northwest England have had rain on 25 of them, thus ensuring that the year’s trout season has been the worst I have known over the past 45 years.

How do chalk stream fish respond to flow and habitat restoration?

Posted on October 04, 2017

How do chalk stream fish respond to flow and habitat restoration?

At the WTT Annual Get Together earlier this year, I had the pleasure of bumping into a former MSc student of mine, Simon Whitton, who now works at Affinity Water and is collaborating with colleagues at Cranfield University, supervising PhD students of his own; a perfect opportunity for another guest blog or four! Since abstraction and chalk streams have hit the headlines repeatedly and this year especially, we should follow Mickaël's progress with interest (and that of Jess Picken too)....

Chalk streams are highly important ecosystems and are a fundamental component of the landscape in the south and east of England. They are hotspots of ecological diversity and support important fisheries for trout and dace amongst others. However, the water that feeds chalk streams originates from groundwater, which is under increasing pressure from abstraction to supply our expanding urban populations. This conflict puts chalk streams squarely in the sights of environmental regulators and water companies as they try to find the best ways to preserve the ecology and the water supply. Hence, my project is sponsored by Affinity Water, and the Environment Agency, and is a part of Cranfield University’s Industrial Partnership PhD studentship programme.

World Rivers Day 2017 (Grantham)

Posted on September 28, 2017

I had the great pleasure of participating in a fantastic event in the lovely setting of Wyndham Park in Grantham on the River Witham for World Rivers Day 2017.

As well as drawing attention (and deserved accolades) to the habitat improvement works carried out in partnerships between Lincolnshire Rivers Trust, Environment Agency and the good ol' Wild Trout Trust, it was a great chance for enjoyment and learning.

Tons of stalls, tours of the habitat works, invertebrate samples in tanks, Model Rivers, Fly casting with Peter Arfield and Tenkara casting with myself - even an epic pooh sticks race off the bridge in the park. The weather was kind too.



Throughout the day there was a steady stream of visitors either strolling through the park and becoming engaged in the activities or folks who had seen the social media advertising and come along especially.



And, in the course of taking a walk along the river with some particularly interested (and interesting folks)...

First Survey Record of Wild Trout Returning to Lyme Brook Habitat Works Site!

Posted on September 11, 2017

You may have seen the first three phases of works on the middle reaches of the Lyme Brook (shown in previous blogs Here and Here) from project works that began in 2015...

Well although the first surveys after that work found some nice coarse fish populations - there was no cold hard evidence that any trout had found the newly-improved habitat...Until now!
EA Midlands Survey Teams reportedly found "More than one...but less than five" wild trout like this one on Sept. 7th 2017I received a phone call today from Matt Lawrence who is the EA's Catchment Host for the Trent Valley Catchment Partnership (with key partners Groundwork West Midlands and the Wild Trout Trust who conceived and delivered the habitat works). Matt told me that he'd had some exciting preliminary reports from a EA Midlands fisheries surveys team. Their survey on 7th September had caught several wild trout as part of their sample on the habitat works site.
These are the first modern records of trout in the brook and is also the exciting news that we have been waiting for on these first phases of work to create...

Re-Meandering The Upper Lyme Brook

Posted on August 30, 2017

Take a bow Groundwork West Midlands (particularly Richard, Francesca & Chris) - myself and Tim Jacklin from team Wild Trout Trust really enjoyed working with you and the great volunteers from the National Citizens Service.

Together we turned what was one of possibly the straightest of any straightened sections of brook into a section with quite a lot more variety. This is what the section looked like in winter:

Though, in high summer, almost none of the water was actually visible when the 360 digger arrived on site ahead of the volunteers (I wanted a day to sculpt the basic shape of the brook before Tim, Francesca, Chris and the volunteers came on site for days 2 and 3).
So, once we found the wet bit of the river, operator David and me could start to collaborate in remodelling the stream. I'm always in awe of how much control these folks have with a machine and bucket - and we soon got into a great working and communication routine. It is fantastic to see the physical changes to the river taking shape before your eyes -...