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New report on river restoration and biodiversity launched

Glen Dee (c) James Hutton Institute
“The IUCN National Committee UK River Restoration and Biodiversity project is an excellent collaboration and this new report provides a blueprint for using minimal intervention and more cost-effective techniques to restore the natural processes of river systems in the UK and Ireland.

A new report on river restoration and biodiversity, published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and by Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW), describes the importance of rivers in the UK and Ireland for biodiversity, summarises the damage that river habitats have sustained over many decades, and discusses ways in which restoration can bring benefits both to wildlife and to human society.

The report was written by James Hutton Institute researchers Stephen Addy, Susan Cooksley, Nikki Dodd, Kerry Waylen, Jenni Stockan, Anja Byg and Kirsty Holstead, and represents a collaboration between a range of organisations in the UK and Ireland: Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Environment Agency (England), Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Rivers Agency (Northern Ireland), Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Loughs Agency (NI), Office of Public Works (Republic of Ireland), Inland Fisheries Ireland, and the River Restoration Centre.

The publication is aimed at regulatory bodies, conservation organisations, NGOs and others and aims to bridge the gap between a scientific understanding of rivers and river processes, and its practical application in restoring river habitats.

Susan Davies, Director of Conservation at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “Healthy rivers form important ecological corridors through our landscapes and are among our richest habitats for wildlife. They provide a range of essential services for society such as drinking water, flood regulation, renewable energy and recreation.

“The IUCN National Committee UK River Restoration and Biodiversity project is an excellent collaboration and this new report provides a blueprint for using minimal intervention and more cost-effective techniques to restore the natural processes of river systems in the UK and Ireland.

“Innovative restoration projects on systems including the Eddleston Water and River Tolka clearly demonstrate how people and wildlife can benefit. It is now vital that we follow these examples by working at a catchment scale to reduce pressures, reverse past damage, and restore river systems for the future.”

In their Foreword to the report, Simon Stuart (Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission) and Piet Wit (Chair, IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management) comment that “rivers are of huge importance for the biodiversity they hold, and the ecosystem services they deliver… We encourage both the British and Irish governments to take its recommendations very seriously and to set an ambitious agenda for river restoration which can become an example for other countries to follow.”

River restoration is seen as increasingly necessary throughout Europe to undo the damage caused by decades of misuse, and, more specifically, to meet the needs of the EC Water Framework Directive (WFD). The European Commission has recently reported that damage to the physical habitat of rivers is one of the main reasons many are failing to achieve ‘good ecological status’. Habitat restoration, in general, is also part of the wider 'ecosystem approach' promoted by the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity.

However, in the UK and in Ireland there is no consistent approach to what needs to be done or the methods that should be used for doing it. In addition, the value of physical habitat restoration for biodiversity is poorly understood, so the way that river restoration might help achieve the requirements of the EC Habitats Directive, the WFD or the wider aspirations of society remains unclear.

In an attempt to address these problems, an inter-agency project sponsored by IUCN-NCUK aims to promote best practice in river restoration for supporting biodiversity, enhancing ecosystem services, and developing a more consistent approach to meeting the aims of European directives. The first phase of the project began in November 2013 and finished in the summer of 2014, with a technical report reviewing the link between river processes and biodiversity, describing the main causes of physical habitat damage in rivers in the UK and Ireland, and assessing the current status of river restoration across the UK and Ireland.

The report "River restoration and biodiversity" can be downloaded from the CREW website.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/new-report-river-restoration-and-biodiversity-launched on 24/08/19 10:57:16 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.