WTT Blog

Land and lake interconnectedness

Posted on March 30, 2017

Land and lake interconnectedness

On a day-to-day basis, most of my time as WTT Research & Conservation Officer is devoted to river habitats, but in my academic role at the Lancaster Environment Centre, lakes are a long-standing focus of my aquatic ecology research. A Natural Environment Research Council grant allowed a colleague from Cambridge and I to convene a workshop with scientists from Canada, the USA and Sweden, with common interests in how lake food webs may be fuelled by subsidies from the land. The output from that meeting is a recently published synthesis based upon data from ~150 northern lakes. Most of the planet's freshwater lakes and rivers that we associate with various ecosystem services, like fisheries and water supply, are found in the northern hemisphere, a region that is changing rapidly in response to human activity intertwined with shifting climatic trends.

The classical view of lake food webs is that of algae produced via photosynthesis forming the food base for zooplankton (such as water fleas or Daphnia) that is then munched by fish. We do not contest this because algae are typically a very high quality diet, and many lakes contain plentiful algae. However, in lakes that do not contain adequate supplies of such a resource, or during winter when it is less available or completely unavailable, then organic matter from the land, derived from the breakdown of terrestrial plants, can still be used via intermediary bacteria. And this situation is more common than you might imagine.

Impacts of low flows on salmonid river ecosystems

Posted on March 22, 2017

Impacts of low flows on salmonid river ecosystems

In the first of a new series from students actively involved in research relevant to wild trout, Jessica Picken from Queen Mary University of London summarises the aims of her PhD working with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and with CEFAS.

Climate change is considered to be the most critical disturbance imposed on natural systems on a global scale. Climate models predict that average temperatures in the UK will increase over the course of the next 50 years with the greatest warming in the south of England during summer months, and that annual average precipitation will reduce. However, the reduction in precipitation is expected to be more pronounced during summer than winter, whereas extreme winter precipitation is expected to become more frequent. In other words, there is likely to be an overall shift towards drier summers but wetter winters.

Fishing and family holidays for 2017 in the WTT auction

Posted on January 08, 2017

Fishing and family holidays for 2017 in the WTT auction

Fishing and family holidays in 2017 in the WTT auction

Short, grey days and limited fishing opportunity over Christmas and New Year tends to make me think of summer holidays.  As I write the lot descriptions for the WTT’s annual fundraising auction,  especially the ‘fishing overseas’ section,  I can dream about travelling to exotic rivers to fish in warm sunshine.  This year, it occurred to me that many of the ‘overseas’ lots could be combined family holidays, and perhaps some advance notice might be useful to aid planning.

Mike Blackmore: moving house, getting sick and still getting projects delivered

Posted on December 06, 2016

Mike Blackmore: moving house, getting sick and still getting projects delivered

As a follow on from Mike Blackmore’s ‘Mad March’ blog, this is what he has been up to recently, or rather this blog post is about the challenges of moving house, getting sick and still getting projects delivered!  You can read more about some of the projects Mike has been delivering in our Autumn Newsletter

Mike is the WTT Conservation Officer for the South and West. 

Catching and Releasing

Posted on November 25, 2016



Catching and Releasing the first Fly-Caught wild trout from a stream that was dug out of a city-centre pipe was probably the highlight of 2016 for me!

Buried in a brick tunnel under England's industrial developments of the 1800s, a section of the Porter Brook in Sheffield was brought back to the surface by a bold project co-ordinated by Sheffield City Council and involving the Wild Trout Trust, The Environment Agency and many more partners.

You can now witness the actual process of freeing the Brook from its pipe - and the creation of functioning trout-stream habitat in this short video.



Yet, the above video does not show the completed park that was a huge part of the entire project - and it does not show the planted vegetation beginning to develop in the summer of 2016. And, it does not show any fly fishing or video of a trout capture...

But the film, below, that was made by the excellent Huckleberry Films as part of the Canal & Rivers Trust "Living Waterways" awards (in which this project won the "Contribution to the Built Environment Award")...Well that DOES show those things too:



Hopefully, with visits from town planning staff from as far away...

An enthusiastic response from Yorkshire

Posted on November 17, 2016

An enthusiastic response from Yorkshire

You may have seen via the WTT news pages or via Twitter that we were awarded a grant from Yorkshire Water’s Biodiversity Enhancement Fund which is part of their Blueprint for Yorkshire.

According to Yorkshire Water: The Wild Trout Trust secured funding to deliver projects across multiple locations within the Yorkshire Water operating area. Projects focused on work to restore, improve and maintain becks, rivers and wetlands. This work is in line with the government’s Catchment Based Approach plans for river management and is in in partnership with the EA, the Rivers and Wildlife Trusts, and local community groups. The proposal also focused on enhancing volunteer’s practical skills in order to enable them to apply learnt techniques on other nearby sites and create a network of environmental stewardship groups for the future.  

Diving in on the Dever

Posted on November 11, 2016

Diving in on the Dever

It is incredibly difficult to drag our Conservation Officer for the South & West, Mike Blackmore, out of the river (where we know he prefers to be). Therefore, in order not to distract him from his valuable work before the end of the ‘in-river’ season, we asked Kris Kent to update us on work to restore the River Dever. Kris has been fly fishing and trotting for brown trout and grayling for over 20 years in the UK, Europe and Scandinavia. He is PR Officer for the Grayling Society and helps WTT with our online communications and events. (WTT Director: he’s also a bloody good egg – thank you, Kris, for all your help).

I was between jobs so I emailed Shaun Leonard, Wild Trout Trust Director, to see if there was anything I could help out the Wild Trout Trust with.  I was thinking of a little light administration, spreadsheets, reports or the like.  Within a few minutes Shaun called me on the mobile.  “Did I fancy helping out Mike Blackmore with a project he was working on?”  I said “Why not.”  Shaun suggested I call Mike to make the necessary arrangements.  Mike seemed a little bewildered by the fact that I was going to be helping out but he suggested that I start the following Tuesday and filled me in on the logistics.

Video blog: Channel Transformation and Fish Survey on the Lyme Brook

Posted on October 14, 2016


Well, the results are in and the fish above were all captured (carefully measured and then returned unharmed to the Lyme Brook)...

All of them were caught clustered around the installed logs and planted flag iris that were introduced throughout the second phase of habitat creation works completed on through the partnership between WTT, Groundwork West Midlands, the EA and The Friends of Lyme Valley Parkway.

The short video below shows the channel transformation - and they ways that the re-shaped river channel is maintained by harnessing the flow of water so that it works with the introduced materials and planted vegetation.

You can also see footage of the very first fish population survey carried out after the habitat works in this section of the brook (and although we didn't see any trout this time, we will continue to work on bridging the gaps between the main River Trent and the potential spawning habitat that has been created in this tributary stream.



 

Easements on Eastburn

Posted on October 06, 2016

Easements on Eastburn

A number of my blog posts have featured Eastburn Beck. It’s my pet project because it is the first that I cut my teeth on after moving to Yorkshire, because I live overlooking its headwaters and hence it is a very easy and accessible site for me to monitor. It is also exciting because it has ably demonstrated the value of partnership working, and how with critical mass, relatively small habitat improvements are snowballing both up and downstream from the original work plans as word spreads; this is quite typical for projects that the WTT is involved with!

Pre & post some weir notching we undertook on Eastburn Beck at Lyndhurst Wood. The channel width is narrower with more natural pool, riffle, and depositional features

Buried Stream Project Wins National Prize

Posted on September 19, 2016



I'm delighted to say that the Porter Brook Deculverting project was selected as the 2016 Winner in the Canal & Rivers Trust for "Contribution to the Built Environment". This was a multi-partner partnership project (with key involvement of Sheffield City Council, the Environment Agency and more) that I was fortunate to have the opportunity to design the in-channel habitat features to provide the best functional benefits for trout and the wider aquatic foodweb.

As well as my previous blog posts on the subject, the awards scheme made short videos (less than 2-minutes) long that captured key elements of each project entry. You can see the film for the winning Porter Brook project below. Please enjoy and share (and also check out the other project videos on YouTube from this year's awards).

Buried Stream Project Wins National Prize

Posted on September 19, 2016



I'm delighted to say that the Porter Brook Deculverting project was selected as the 2016 Winner in the Canal & Rivers Trust for "Contribution to the Built Environment". This was a multi-partner partnership project (with key involvement of Sheffield City Council, the Environment Agency and more) that I was fortunate to have the opportunity to design the in-channel habitat features to provide the best functional benefits for trout and the wider aquatic foodweb. The Sheffield Branch of Trout in the Town "SPRITE" are caring for the habitat as well as monitoring the aquatic life in this new section of daylighted urban stream.

As well as my previous blog posts on the subject, the awards scheme made short videos (less than 2-minutes) long that captured key elements of each project entry. You can see the film for the winning Porter Brook project below. Please enjoy and share (and also check out the other project videos on YouTube from this year's awards).

Restoring longitudinal connectivity: a more holistic approach

Posted on August 23, 2016

Restoring longitudinal connectivity: a more holistic approach

Anyone who knows anything about fish in the UK will surely know Dr Martyn Lucas, the head of the Aquatic Animal Ecology Research Group within the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University. He’s an absolute legend and all round good bloke with whom I have done some research in the past. From amongst the many projects he is involved with, his group has published two papers this year revolving around fish passage issues. The first was led by Mike Forty (supported by the Catchment Restoration Fund, CRF) who wrote a layman’s version for us in Salmo and whom I have written about before on the WTT blog pages. Below is a quick summary by Martyn, reproduced with his permission, regarding the second output which included brown trout and bullhead as the study species.  

Jeroen Tummer’s paper concerns longitudinal connectivity restoration for stream fish communities, particularly in terms of the use of ‘nature-like’ passage solutions and obstacle removal, and the utility of a more holistic approach for evaluating outcomes. One of the key findings of our study is that quantitative fish surveys don't do a very good job in telling us whether connectivity restoration work for stream fishes has worked or not in the short term! There are much better ways of doing this as illustrated in the paper. However, they do provide valuable, contextual evidence about changes in the fish community towards or away from the restoration objectives, including those in the longer term (so long as standardised monitoring at a regular frequency is continued).

Friends of The Dearne - Tescos Scissett Habitat Workshop and Balsam Bash

Posted on August 22, 2016

The many willing volunteers who cleared a big stand of Himalayan balsam and many sacks of rubbish in Scisset
I had the privilege of contributing to a great event that was set up by Phil Slater (Friends of River Dearne) and hosted by both Don Catchment Rivers Trust and The Wild Trout Trust.

It was also (importantly) supported by the local branch of Tesco - whose car park and store front the River Dearne runs past in the little West Yorkshire village of Scissett - and also by the Environment Agency.

The concept was simple - invite local volunteers to join together and remove the invasive, non-native Himalayan balsam, clear-up litter and also learn some simple river-habitat protection and improvement techniques.

This last part is why I was on site - to run a mini "habitat workshop" to explain the appropriate balance between light and shade; as well as the huge importance of "cover" habitat or refuge for different stages of a wild trout's life-cycle. When take together, removing the competitive dominance of the invasive plants (which not only benefit native plants - but also the bugs and other wildlife that...

A previously buried section of stream produces the first fly caught trout in >160 years

Posted on August 18, 2016



As near as I can work out from the archaeology report, this section of river - recently brought back to the surface in dramatic fashion by Sheffield City Council, the EA and the WTT partnership - was buried in a low brick tunnel somewhere around 1853 to 1868. The northern half of the site was certainly buried underground BEFORE the time the 1853 map was produced....and the rest of the brick tunnel was placed over the top of the stream before the map of 1868...

Of course, it is not easy to tell what the water quality was like in that section even BEFORE the stream was buried...and whether there were trout surviving in the stream when it was sealed underground...

What is damned sure is that you couldn't wave a fly fishing rod around in that underground tunnel once they'd built it!

This was still the case until the completion of the massive project to remove the brickwork and create an attractive "pocket park" in the city centre. You might have seen from This Previous Blog Post that SPRITE have already been finding some wonderful invertebrate life here.

So...

Food web responses to habitat rehabilitation

Posted on August 04, 2016

Food web responses to habitat rehabilitation

Connectivity is a recurrent theme of my blog posts. Last year I wrote about plans for notching some of the redundant low mill weirs on a tributary of the River Aire, local to me. Those plans will come to fruition in the next few weeks as Pete Turner (Environment Agency) and I have had our bespoke environmental permit consented to progress the works, so I’ll report back to show you how the channel is evolving. I also wrote about making connections and how Mike Forty’s PhD research with Ribble Rivers Trust had thrown up some really interesting results, especially regarding the importance of free movement for precocious parr; the published work is available here.

To communicate the worth of habitat restoration work (in supporting the Ecosystem Service approach & Natural Capital principles) to the wider public and to potential future funders, and thus maintain, increase and maximise the potential impact, there is an urgent need for some simple and accessible assessments that a broad audience can appreciate. I have proposed to use the concept of the food web in this context because: a) the knock-on effects of habitat degradation translate into food web alterations very quickly; and b) the food web is recognised by a broad swathe of society (and from a very early age). Hence, measures of food webs can be used as an engagement & educational tool that will increase the understanding and value of restoration projects, as well as a tangible and effective measure for funding applications.