A new report, published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and CREW (Centre of Expertise for Waters) will be launched at the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA) on 29th September. The work has been overseen by Scottish Natural Heritage, with the assistance of all the conservation and environment agencies in the UK, as well as the River Restoration Centre and organisations in the Republic of Ireland.
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. The report 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 will be launched by Susan Davies, Director of Conservation at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, with other contributions from Bill Brierley, Chief Executive of the FBA, and Stuart Brooks, Chair of the National Committee (UK) of IUCN. Susan Davies 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) say 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 Scottish Natural Heritage has been leading on an inter-agency project, sponsored by the IUCN National Committee (IUCN NCUK), to promote best practice in river restoration for supporting biodiversity, for enhancing ecosystem services, and for 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 work has had the active support of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Natural England, the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the River Restoration Centre and various organisations in the Republic of Ireland.
Programme for 29th September
The event will start at 11.00 and end at 15.15, and include three presentations (introduced by Phil Boon (Head, Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Scottish Natural Heritage) from Bill Brierley (Chief Executive of the Freshwater Biological Association), Stuart Brooks (Chair, IUCN National Committee UK); and Susan Davies (Director of Conservation, Scottish Wildlife Trust). There will be an opportunity for questions and discussion, a showing of video clips during the lunch interval of river restoration projects entered for the UK River Prize), and a tour of the FBA, including 'Project Ark' - the FBA's rearing facility for endangered pearl mussel populations.
(a) For technical queries on river restoration or on the IUCN report
Dr Steve Addy
The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen, AB15 8QH
Tel (direct): 01224 395159
(b) For information on the project and the launch
Professor Phil Boon
Scottish Natural Heritage
231 Corstorphine Road
Edinburgh, EH12 7AT
Tel (direct): 0131-316-2631