Many watercourses within the River Rea Catchment are failing to meet the required standards under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) due to failing fish numbers. The River Rea has long been known to be in serious decline as a result of sedimentation, undesired agricultural practices and barriers to fish migration. The Severn Rivers Trust walkover surveys of the River Rea, confirmed that suspended sediment load is seen to be impacting on the ecological health of the river and a major cause of fish failure. Impacts such as agricultural run-off from fields and bank erosion caused by farm animals are major contributors to an excessive quantity of sediment entering the river system. Also good riparian habitats are in decline due to over mature and diseased alders dying and falling into the river causing excessive blockages and bank erosion scars.
The River Rea restoration Project is a partnership project that will use Catchment Restoration Funds to improve watercourses in the Rea Catchment. Catchment Officer, Emma Buckingham is working with farmers to encourage the installation of cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives. These include coppicing of riparian habitats, designating buffer strips between the fields and rivers and fencing, planting trees and bank revetments re-stabilising eroded banks.
Through restoration work, the project will address issues including:
- Sediment which has a direct adverse effect on water quality.
- Barriers to fish migration, preventing fish from reaching habitat that they should be present in.
- Interrupted natural downstream movement of substrate which reduces spawning habitat for salmonids.
- Poor in-channel and riparian habitat for riverine species
Description of Works
In order that we solve the problems in the Rea catchment, the River Rea Restoration aims to advise and assist farmers and land owners in applying the correct and relevant practices and tackle the issues by delivering the following measures
- Fencing – riparian fencing and associated drinking points will result in multiple benefits. Poaching of riverbanks by livestock will be reduced, as will the associated excess sediment inputs. Vegetation will become re-established along the riverbanks, increasing riparian habitat and biodiversity.
- Reconnecting habitat – where an obstruction to fish passage exists within the river channel, the project will look to remove it, or at the very least, make it passable. This will not only open up more habitat to migratory fish, but where removal occurs it will also return the sediment movement to a more natural regime.
- Riparian Management – Bankside trees that have not been cut or coppiced for several years and have been allowed to grow up can shade riverbanks, restricting sunlight to under-storey vegetation and result in bare ground under the trees which is then susceptible to erosion. The aim is to increase the amount of light getting through the canopy, promote natural re-growth of bankside plants and increase levels of bank stability and stabilise the spread of phytophora amongst the Alders, reducing bank side collapse.