WRT is going back to basics
sought to position ecology as one of the central measures of
successful environm...
Dylan Bright addresses Chinese delegation 
Rapid move to catch Restoration Funds 
THE  START  OF  2012  S...
Trust Director at the House of Lords
Trust pilots its approach to catchment management
A precious pearl river
Ecological Status and the Water 
Framework Directive 
River condition assessments for the Water Fram...
Establishing a baseline and monitoring success
The Trust has a well established method of carrying ...
Assessing the condition of fish populations  
Electrofishing is one of the most effective methods avai...
Using invertebrate populations to assess river health 
The evaluation of invertebrate communities l...
Going with the flow
Over the centuries, man has sought to control the water in our
rivers and stre...
Woody debris
Trees and other bankside vegetation also
create ’debris’ that falls into the water.
The Country Sports South West Project, funded by DEFRA and the European
Agricultural Fund for Rural Development ,aim...
‘Valuing nature’: morally wrong or the only route to salvation?
Thank you to our supporters and funders
Contrary to common expectations, this
usage is no longer dominated by the
younger generation, as the s...
The Westcountry Rivers Trust is an environmental charity 
(Charity no. 1135007, Company no. 06545646) established in...
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Confluence 15: Autumn 12


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Confluence is the bi-annual newsletter of the Westcountry Rivers Trust. Confluence is packed with all of the latest news on the work of the Trust and what is happening in river restoration and conservation across the Westcountry.

The Autumn 2012 edition was a special edition about the Trust's River Improvement Projects funded by the Environment Agency's Catchment Restoration Fund earlier in the year.

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Confluence 15: Autumn 12

  1. 1.     
  2. 2. 2    CONTENTS  DIRECTORS COMMENTS 3 TRUST NEWS: CATCHMENT RESTORATION FUND 4 WATER CONFERENCE 4 HOUSE OF LORDS 5 THE TAMAR CATCHMENT PLAN 6 PRECIOUS PEARL MUSSELS 7 SPECIAL FEATURE: RIVER RESTORATION 8 MONITORING FOR SUCCESS 10 GOING WITH THE FLOW 13 RIVER HABITAT RESTORATION 14 ANGLING NEWS 16 DEBATE:VALUING NATURE 17 EDUCATION 18 WRT DIGITAL 19   Cover Photo: A large stonefly. Photo by David Chapman. Editors: Lucy Morris and Nick Paling Contributors: Dylan Bright, Layla Lidster, Giles Rickard, Lucy Morris, Joe Morris, David Chapman and Nick Paling. © Copyright: Westcountry Rivers Trust, 2012. The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the Westcountry Rivers Trust or the trustees thereof and responsibility cannot be accepted for opinions herein. Whilst advertising is welcomed, such advertising and/or logos do not constitute Westcountry Rivers Trust endorsements of the products, services or companies involved. The Westcountry Rivers Trust is a registered charitable limited  company (Charity No: 1135007, Company No: 06545646). Printed by Assessing the health of a river ecosystem  © Ross Hoddinott ‐ 2020 Vision 
  3. 3. 3    COMMENT  WRT is going back to basics sought to position ecology as one of the central measures of successful environmental sustainability. This Directive is pragmatic; it does not seek to measure everything, but rather it assesses indicators of ecosystem function as a central measure of our success. Importantly, it focuses on water, which is the final resting place of much of the pollution arising from unsustainable practices. At the Westcountry Rivers Trust, we were delighted with this development and we, and others, felt that this was one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation ever produced. Little did we know that this would be the snowball that set off the avalanche. Since 2000, many groups, including the Trust, have sought to take the aspiration further to include all environmental services within a planning framework. This would ensure that we work within environmental limits while continuing to receive all of the services that society needs from the environment. Now this may sound like the idealistic fancy of an intellectual, like Sir Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’. However, in reality it is perfectly possible to get all we need from the environment, while not diminishing it. What is more, it is probably the more profitable option in the short‐term, as well as being the only option in the longer term. The key for us, is to place the environment at the centre of our economic models in the future and manage it as a finite, but regenerating resource, rather than an infinite one. In this issue of Confluence we will be discussing how we are using ecology to measure environmental health and we will be presenting some practical approaches to restoring ecological function. Dr Dylan Bright  Trust Director   “Water  is  the  most  critical  resource  issue  of  our  lifetime  and  our  children’s lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure  of how we live on the land.” Luna B. Leopold Luna Leopold was a scientist, writer and educator. His studies of rivers and their flows and movements have provided enduring insights into how rivers shape themselves and shape the land. His famous quotation inspired my career, because within it he recognises a simple truth: we are entirely dependent on a functioning environment and so its health should be the ultimate indicator of the sustainability of society. There are many examples of societies and civilisations scattered throughout human history and across the globe that have overlooked this link; from the Greenland Norse to the Easter Islanders and from the Polynesians of Pitcairn Island to the Maya of Central America. The main failure arises from what economists refer to as a ‘tragedy of the commons’. This is the depletion of a shared resource by individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one’s self‐interest. In order to avoid this, an understanding is required of the total carrying capacity of our environment; how much of a natural resource can be used while still ensuring that the resource has the capacity to recover, regrow and replenish itself? We also need a process that enables us to centrally manage our use of resources within those limits. You would think that, knowing all this and looking haughtily back over the long history of collapsed societies, we would  have established mechanisms to measure the health of the environment, which we could use to manage its use sustainably. Well, you would be wrong! Only as recently as 2000 have we seen the introduction of a piece of legislation, the EU Water Framework Directive, that has finally
  4. 4. 4    TRUST NEWS  Dylan Bright addresses Chinese delegation  Rapid move to catch Restoration Funds  THE  START  OF  2012  SAW  THE  ANNOUNCEMENT  BY  DEFRA  OF  A  £28  MILLION  CATCHMENT  RESTORATION  FUND  (CRF),  TO  BE  MADE  AVAILABLE  FOR  RIVER  IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS IN ENGLAND OVER THE NEXT THREE YEARS.   In just two short weeks, Westcountry Rivers Trust staff compiled detailed bids for CRF‐ funded projects in catchments across the South West and were successful in winning over £4 million of funding for six major new river restoration projects. CRF Projects will take place on the Dart and Teign, the Axe and Exe, the rivers of the South Hams, the rivers of South Cornwall and the River Taw. These projects are largely aimed at improving the ecological condition of failing waterbodies through the implementation of practical, on‐the‐ground measures (see our Special Feature on our Catchment Restoration Projects in this edition of Confluence). “The bids from the Westcountry Rivers Trust exemplified what the Catchment Restoration  Fund aims to do; consider the catchment as a whole, solve problems through working with a  range of partners and, most of all, deliver benefits across society. Water is essential for life  and livelihoods. These projects will restore a more balanced approach to land and water  management in order to sustain both people and wildlife in the future.”   David Baxter, Head of Catchment Management, Environment Agency EUWATER Project Conference THE WATER PROJECT WAS SET UP TO INVESTIGATE THE ROLE OF WETTED LAND WITHIN A CATCHMENT AND TO EXAMINE THE  TECHNIQUES AND ECONOMICS OF RESTORATION. NOW IN ITS THIRD AND FINAL YEAR, THE PROJECT CULMINATED IN JUNE WITH  A CONFERENCE IN EXETER, WHICH SAW THE PUBLICATION OF A 24‐PAGE PAYMENTS FOR ECOSYSTEM SERVICES GUIDE.  Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) is a mechanism for investing in the restoration and protection of the natural environment, in this case river and catchment restoration. During a full day of presentations and lively discussion, the partners of the WATER project presented their findings and set out the two main objectives of the project; firstly, a web mounted catchment portal that identifies the different interests and brokers working across our river catchments; and secondly, a printed guide aimed at setting up PES projects.   BBC Spotlight film project officers Layla  Lidster and Giles Rickard for the news  The Trust has worked closely with South West Water in developing and delivering their innovative PES initiative, the Upstream Thinking Project. South West Water are investing in restoration of land to improve water quality at source, prior to abstraction, rather than paying the costs of cleaning the water post‐abstraction. This initiative is linked with the WATER project and was used as an in‐depth case study for the conference, detailing how the scheme originated, the mechanisms and legal framework within which it is delivered and how the costs and benefits are assessed. On the day following the conference, delegates had the opportunity to visit two of the sites on Exmoor that have benefited from restoration work and to see the improvements resulting from South West Water’s investment. This innovative and now award winning initiative has paved the way in the new economics of catchment restoration and the WATER conference was a great success in showcasing what can be achieved through Payment for Ecosystem Services schemes.   Many thanks to all those who contributed to the success of the conference, including the speakers Marie‐Helene Philippe, Arlin Rickard, Ronan Girard, Martin Ross, Laurie Smith and Adrian Collins, as well as Trust staff Laurence Couldrick, Hazel Kendall, Nick Paling and Lucy Morris. A copy of the guide is available on request from WRT or you can downloaded it at www.wrt.org.uk/WATERPESGuide.pdf. 
  5. 5. 5    TRUST NEWS  Trust Director at the House of Lords RECOGNITION  OF  THE  TRUST’S  WORK  AND  VISION  HAS  CONTINUED  TO  GROW  IN  THE  FIRST  HALF  OF  THIS  YEAR  AND  IN  FEBRUARY  TRUST  DIRECTOR,  DR  DYLAN  BRIGHT,  WAS  INVITED  TO  GIVE  EVIDENCE  AT  THE  HOUSE  OF  LORDS  EU  SELECT  COMMITTEE INQUIRY ON EU FRESHWATER POLICY.   During the hour‐long session, Dr Bright was quizzed intensively on his views on the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and its delivery both here in the UK and across Europe. The Lords listened with interest as Dr Bright explained how the Trust’s approach to water, land and environmental management, through Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes, could help deliver WFD objectives. He also explained that such an approach could deliver a good proportion of the UK’s biodiversity and recreational aspirations, as well as improving flood and drought defence and carbon sequestration capabilities. The Lords were particularly interested in the potential of applying the Trusts PES catchment management approach in the wider European context. Dr Bright emphasised to the Lords the importance of good, well‐informed rural spatial planning and how, through engagement with local communities, businesses and organisations it is possible to develop a workable and strategic catchment management plan. This plan can then be implemented through the creation of appropriate economic markets at a local level. Dr Bright cited the Trust’s work with South West Water on their Upstream Thinking initiative as an example of this approach . When questioned by the Lords on potential measures the government might implement to support this approach, Dr Bright stressed the need for simplified but more effective regulation. Alongside better regulation should come an alignment of incentives, such as the redirection of CAP payments and agri‐environment subsidies, into locally approved catchment plans. He also suggested that a new governance structure could be created in order to give catchment management plans a democratic mandate, recognising catchment boundaries as planning units for rural spatial planning and supporting the creation of new, local economic markets for ecosystem services. In the Chairman’s final remarks, the Lords thanked Dr Bright for “a most stimulating session”.   “Yes, he does seem to be talking a lot of sense…but where are his shoes?” 
  6. 6. 6    Trust pilots its approach to catchment management OUR APPROACH TO CATCHMENT MANAGEMENT HAS ALWAYS PLACED A STRONG EMPHASIS ON ENGAGING AND WORKING WITH  INDIVIDUAL LANDOWNERS, BUSINESSES AND ORGANISATIONS IN ORDER TO DELIVER ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS ON THE  GROUND. THIS YEAR, THE TRUST IS HOSTING ONE OF DEFRA’S PILOT CATCHMENTS AND, FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE HAVE THE  OPPORTUNITY TO ENGAGE WITH STAKEHOLDERS ACROSS AN ENTIRE CATCHMENT WITH THE AIM OF DEVELOPING AN AMBITIOUS  INTEGRATED CATCHMENT MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR THE TAMAR.  Over 60 delegates, representing businesses, public bodies, local interest groups and other third sector organisations from across the Tamar catchment, attended the project launch at Roadford Lake in March. The River Tamar and its catchment provides a variety of resources and benefits to all those who live and work within the catchment. It provides a place to grow food and to enjoy recreation. It provides us with water to drink as well as the capacity to store water, providing protection against flood and drought. There are habitats important for rare species and biodiversity within the catchment and some of these also play a significant role in sequestering carbon. However, management of the catchment for delivery of these resources and benefits is currently thought to be undertaken in a rather fragmented way. At the launch meeting, delegates took part in round‐table discussions to explore their ideas on where in the catchment these ecosystem services are, or could be, delivered. Stakeholders were also invited to contribute to a series of follow‐up working groups, to be run over the summer months, which had the aim of identifying and mapping broad areas within the catchment that they considered important for the delivery of specific ecosystem services. For example, recreational groups might be interested in access to the river, but this could be considered more important near towns and villages than it is in very rural parts of the catchment. Likewise, many conservation organisations are concerned with protecting rare habitats and species within the catchment, but these could be enhanced more effectively if connectivity between fragmented habitats was improved. Seven working groups were formed and the meetings that have taken place over recent months have been attended by a total of 100 stakeholders. Tapping into the combined expertise of these many and diverse stakeholders has enabled the collation of existing data and information about the catchment in order to map areas where ecosystem services are currently provided. Stakeholders have also prioritised areas where there may be opportunities for the enhanced provision of these ecosystem services in the future. The seven working groups have encompassed ecological networks for wildlife, carbon sequestration, provision of fresh water, recreation and culture, regulation of water resources and the provision of food. Another working group has also been established to address the issue of location‐specific pollution within the catchment and another has been asked to consider the practicalities of engaging and educating the wider public in the issues raised during the project. Bringing stakeholders from the Tamar catchment together 
  7. 7. 7    TRUST NEWS  A precious pearl river IN  FEBRUARY  2012  NORTH  DEVON  AONB,  THE  BIOSPHERE  RESERVE,  THE  ENVIRONMENT  AGENCY  AND  THE  TARKA  COUNTRY  TRUST  COMMISSIONED  THE  TRUST TO ASSESS AVAILABILITY OF POTENTIAL HABITAT FOR A VERY RARE AND  THREATENED PEARL MUSSEL SPECIES ON THE RIVER MOLE IN DEVON.  The River Mole supports a variety of protected species, including the intriguing pearl mussel. Historically, these rare molluscs were found in numerous Devon catchments including the Tamar, Exe, Dart, Teign and Torridge. However, only two catchments (the Taw and the Torridge) still support small pearl mussel populations and today this globally threatened species has been lost from all but seven English rivers. This decline is thought to be largely due to pearl mussels being very sensitive to changes in their environment and, as such, their presence indicates an extremely healthy river system. Each individual pearl mussel acts as a filter, clarifying the water by removing micro‐organisms and particulate matter, on which they feed. A distinguishing characteristic of the pearl mussel’s life cycle is the larval stage, during which they attach themselves to the gills of salmonids as they make their way upstream in the late summer. The juveniles then drop off the host once in the upper reaches of the river, burying themselves in clean, coarse sand where they will remain to feed and grow into adults. Pearl mussels can live up to 120 years of age and the adults are capable of reproduction until they die. However, the juveniles cannot survive in silted substrates, where the gravels and sand on the river bottom become clogged with silt due to poor land management practices. This dramatically reduces the supply of clean, well‐oxygenated water available to the young mussels nestled in the substrate, resulting in very high mortality rates. This near total loss of offspring has resulted in ageing populations and some of the youngest pearl mussels in the Torridge are thought to be around 40 years old! The pilot project undertaken by the Trust involved recruiting and training 17 local volunteers to carry out habitat walkover surveys. The surveys indicated that, although there were areas of the River Mole with good potential for supporting pearl mussels, there were a multitude of issues that would need to be addressed before a population could be viably sustained. Through conducting surveys and establishing appropriate and effective management techniques, it is hoped that sites with the potential to support pearl mussel beds can be optimised in the future, helping to secure a future for this remarkable species.   Adult freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera)  Image: Joel Berglund  The task ahead is now to draw together the outputs of the working groups and overlay the resulting maps to identify areas where there is complementarity or conflict in the provision of services. The final map will highlight areas in the catchment that are important for delivery of multiple services and, in the final meetings of the working groups, stakeholders will discuss ways in which they might be able to work together and channel funding towards improving the delivery of ecosystem services in target areas. The ultimate aim of piloting this approach is to develop a unifying, stakeholder‐led and spatially informed catchment management plan for the river Tamar, that draws together all the different interests within the catchment. The Trust hopes this process will enable potential funding sources to be utilised to deliver maximum gains, ensuring that the Tamar catchment continues to provide its communities with all of the services that they depend on.
  8. 8. 8    SPECIAL FEATURE  ONE OF THE CENTRAL AIMS OF THE TRUST’S NEW CATCHMENT RESTORATION FUND (CRF) PROJECTS IS TO  IMPROVE THE ECOLOGICAL HEALTH OF MANY OF THE RIVERS IN THE SOUTH WEST. IN THIS SPECIAL FEATURE  WE  EXPLORE  WHAT  IS  MEANT  BY  THE  ‘ECOLOGICAL  HEALTH’  OF  A  RIVER  AND  DESCRIBE  SOME  OF  THE  PRACTICAL METHODS WE WILL BE USING, ON‐THE‐GROUND, TO IMPROVE IT.   RIVER RESTORATION  Ecology is the study not just of the abundance and distribution of living organisms, but also the relationships they have with each other and the non‐living environment they inhabit. All species have a niche; they are biologically adapted, to varying degrees of specificity, in order to live in their environment. The variety of different habitats and species is what we term biodiversity and species interact with their habitats, both living and non‐living, to form complex ecosystems. Every organism has a role to play in the ecosystem of which it is a part. So, what do we mean when we talk about the health of an ecosystem and how can health be restored? What we are really talking about is the ability of an ecosystem to perform its natural processes, to maintain the abundance and diversity of life that it supports and to restore itself after suffering external disturbances. An assessment of ecological condition enables us to evaluate to what extent the direct or indirect effects of human activities have damaged the ecosystem, resulting in loss of carrying capacity, functionality and biodiversity. There are a myriad of different factors that influence the diversity and abundance of living organisms; the age, size and abundance of living organisms; the age, size and connectedness of the habitat of Taw River Improvement Project (TRIP)  TRIP is £1.8 million project that will address fish migration issues throughout the River Taw catchment, through weir removals and installation of fish passes. South Hams River Improvement Project (SHRImP)  The main aims of the £700,000 SHRImP is to reduce sedimentation and nutrient enrichment, improve passage for fish past obstacles and address issues relating to pH. . South Cornwall River Improvement Project (SCRIP)  SCRIP is a £430,000 project that will address issues resulting from the region’s long history of clay extraction and the heavy modification and canalisation of river channels.
  9. 9. 9    SPECIAL FEATURE  Ecological Status and the Water  Framework Directive  River condition assessments for the Water Framework Directive are currently undertaken in the UK by the Environment Agency using methodologies agreed with the UK Technical Advisory Group (UK TAG) and recommendations for remedial catchment management interventions are made through River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs). For surface waters, such as rivers and lakes, the ‘overall status’ of a waterbody is comprised of an ecological and a chemical component. The ecological status of a waterbody is primarily measured using a series of biological parameters and is recorded on the scale high, good, moderate, poor and bad, with moderate or worse being regarded as failure. To determine a WFD classification the degree of disturbance to each quality element is assessed against a ‘reference value or set of values’ for that element. A reference value for a biological quality element is the level predicted to occur when a river is subjected to no, or only very minor, alteration as a result of human disturbance. UKTAG recommends that reference conditions should reflect ‘a state in the present or in the past corresponding to very low pressure, without the effects of major industrialisation, urbanisation and intensification of agriculture’. In broad terms, a classification of good ecological status is applied to natural water bodies that show only slight variation from their undisturbed natural condition. In addition to the biological characterisation of waterbody condition these classifications are also supported by assessments of three additional components of the environment: physical structure (morphology), flow and water levels (hydrology) and general water quality (physico‐chemistry). which they are a part; the topography, geology and altitude of the region where the habitat is located; and the hours of daylight, amount of rainfall and the temperature of that region, are just a few. A benign physical environment, where temperatures are moderate and consistent, and rainfall is regular, often provides good conditions for life, while variety in topography, geology, hydrology and soils, as well as variety in the living, biological environment, provide a multitude of niches in which a diverse range of species can thrive. Within a river system, water moves over and through the landscape which has a varied geology and soils, from the headwaters in the mountains or moors, through bogs, heaths and steep wooded valleys, though grasslands and marshes in the floodplain, all the way down to the sea. The characteristics of a particular landscape affect the way water moves through it; its temperature and its chemical properties. At the same time, water moving through a landscape lifts, carries and deposits materials; helping to mould and shape the landscape around it and to move the non‐living and the living biological elements laterally, longitudinally and vertically throughout the aquatic ecosystem. These complex, dynamic, high energy interactions influence the structure of a river, from the slope and height of the river banks and the depth of the channel, to the substrates that line the river bed. Opportunities for species to evolve and adapt to colonise new niches abound in this ecologically diverse environment. Here in the Westcountry, the three primary causes of decline in ecosystem health and loss of biodiversity are water pollution, flow modification and the destruction and degradation of habitat. It is these causes of damage that the Catchment Restoration Fund projects aim to address. The  map  (left)  shows  the  catchments  we  will  be  working  in  for  our  various Catchment Restoration Fund Projects and gives a description of  the main activities we will be undertaking for each.  Axe & Exe River Improvement Project (AERIP)  AERIP is a £670,000 project aimed at reducing sediment load and nutrient enrichment, easements for fish migration and improvements of gravels for fish spawning. Dart & Teign River Improvement Project (DTRIP)  DTRIP is a £500,000 Project aimed at reducing sedimentation, improving spawning gravels, as well as addressing issues resulting from road run‐off and low moorland pH. .
  10. 10. 10    SPECIAL FEATURE  Establishing a baseline and monitoring success The Trust has a well established method of carrying out river walkover surveys to record habitat type and condition both in‐ channel and in the riparian zone. At the same time, the surveyor will identify problems such as obstacles to fish passage, modifications to the channel or areas where the habitat has become degraded. These surveys help to identify and locate potential causes of poor ecological condition and inform where we target works on the ground to best deliver improvements. However, it is also essential that we record the success, or otherwise, of the works carried out and we have a suite of monitoring tools that can be used to do this. The first step in this process is to establish a baseline, from which we can judge the effectiveness of restoration work. This involves collating and evaluating all pre‐existing data, held by public bodies, local interest groups and other organisations, and utilising the Trust’s extensive, in‐house, knowledge of Westcountry rivers in order to build up a detailed picture of the condition of each waterbody and of the catchment as a whole. Where there are gaps in the coverage of this data, we will be undertaking further survey and monitoring activities, both pre and post‐restoration work. Some of the more unusual monitoring techniques we will be using for the River Improvement Projects include: Temperature and pH Monitoring Extreme fluctuations in the temperature and acidity of the water can have a detrimental effect on a variety of species, including invertebrates and fish. These fluctuations can be easily recorded using an electronic device called a data‐logger. These devices are placed in‐stream, usually for a period of one month, where they then record data on temperature and pH. The ability to record data frequently over a long period of time enables an evaluation to be made of the extent of fluctuations in a variety of different flow and weather conditions.   Diatom Sampling  Diatoms are a diverse and ancient group of algae numbering many tens of thousands of species. They photosynthesise, are often single‐celled and are found in both marine and freshwater environments. The availability of nutrients is one of the key factors in determining which species of diatom can survive in any given waterbody and, as such, analysing the diatom communities present in a river or a stream can give a very good indication of whether there is, or has been, nutrient enrichment. As with the data loggers, diatom sampling gives a better indication of overall water quality than infrequent water sampling, as this approach can often fail to capture data during peak events and the algae are in the river ‘sampling’ their environment every day throughout the year. In‐situ real‐time water quality monitoring  To assess the pollutant loads present in our rivers and to identify from where in the catchment they are derived from, we will also be deploying a series of automatic samplers or sondes (from the French for probe). These devices (shown below), when placed into the river or stream, record the chemical composition of the water passing over their sensors at regular intervals and store the data internally or transmit it back to a database on the internet. These data can help us to understand how the levels of different chemicals in the water change over time and can indicate which tributaries are contributing the most pollution under certain conditions (such as after rainfall or during periods of low flow). These various specialised methods, combined with the more commonplace (but equally important) survey and sampling techniques we use, such as fish population monitoring and invertebrate sampling (see special sections on following pages), provide the tools with which the Catchment Restoration Fund Project officers can accurately monitor their progress over the coming three years. Electrofishing is a great method of monitoring fish populations  Image: Paul Glendell 
  11. 11. 11    SPECIAL FEATURE  Assessing the condition of fish populations   Electrofishing is one of the most effective methods available to quantify, assess and monitor fish populations; both within and between waterbodies. Electrofishing involves creating an electric field in the water that temporarily immobilises the fish or influences the direction in which they swim, making them relatively easy to capture with a dip net. The voltage of the electric current and mass of the fish determine the strength of the effect and, if used correctly and according to the guidelines, the fish are unharmed and recover fully. It is important that the conductivity of the water is measured at each individual site, so that voltage settings and other parameters can be adjusted where appropriate. Electrofishing surveys can either be qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative electrofishing is used to capture a snapshot of the fish population, giving an indication of the species present (or any notable absences) and their age classes. In contrast, quantitative sampling requires a more structured approach, with a defined area, typically 100m2 , fished repeatedly having been isolated using stop nets at the top and bottom of the river section. This method allows an accurate count of the number of fish to be made and, by recording the species, age and size of the fish caught, the results are entirely comparative between different sites and over time. The majority of electrofishing undertaken by the Westcountry Rivers Trust is classified as semi‐quantitative, a method that concentrates on recording the presence or absence of different species, the sizes of the fish caught and the abundance of juvenile fish. Unlike quantitative electrofishing surveys, semi‐quantitative surveys are comparable because they are always undertaken for a fixed time period of five minutes and each site is surveyed with the same level of effort. The advantage of this approach is that it is quick to undertake a survey and so multiple sites across a catchment to be surveyed each year without prohibitive cost implications. Results recorded from electrofishing sites across a catchment can be used to assess the distribution and density of juvenile fish, which in turn enables us to estimate the number of adults that were present the previous year and the health of the fish population. The results can also be used to compare tributaries in the same catchment or sections within the same river, which is particularly important in identifying where density is below desired levels and ensures that river improvement works are targeted into the right locations and that any improvements achieved are accurately recorded. As part of the CRF River Improvement Projects, the Trust will be undertaking electro‐fishing surveys across catchments to improve our understanding of fish distributions in these areas. There will also be monitoring of specific sites pre‐ and post‐works to assess the benefits of river improvements works such as weir easements, gravel re‐introduction, pool and riffle‐sequence creation and fencing.
  12. 12. 12    SPECIAL FEATURE  Using invertebrate populations to assess river health  The evaluation of invertebrate communities living in a river or stream is one of the best methods we have for assessing the impacts of environmental stress on the health of an aquatic ecosystem. Invertebrates that spend all, or part, of their lifecycle living in a river or lake are, while in the water, constantly exposed to changes in the structural composition of the river bed, in the volume of water in the river and in the chemical composition of the water flowing over them. To assess the health of the invertebrate communities in a river, samples are collected using a standardised method and the organisms found are identified to the level of taxonomic family or species. In addition, the approximate abundance of each group found in the sample is also recorded and this combined data is used to calculate so‐called biotic indices, which are used to draw conclusions about the condition of the river and to make comparisons between sites on the same or different rivers. For their statutory assessments of river condition for the EU Water Framework Directive, the Environment Agency enter their data into a software package called the River InVertebrate Prediction and Classification System (RIVPACS), which was developed by the Institute of Freshwater Ecology (IFE). The RIVPACS package takes physical and geographical information recorded about the sample site and makes a prediction of the invertebrate assemblage that is ‘expected’ to occur in a river of that type in that geographic location. This predicted score is then compared with the score that was actually recorded from the river sample taken to calculate the Ecological Quality Ratio (EQR) for the site. The EQR score is then used as an indicator of the ecological health of the river for its Water Framework Directive invertebrate classification. The current biotic index used for the Water Framework Directive Invertebrate Classification is termed the ‘average score per taxon’ (ASPT) index. In this long‐established method each invertebrate group is allocated a score according to its sensitivity to pollution. When a river becomes polluted the most sensitive and highest scoring groups are the first to be lost and the average score falls. Where the average score of the groups found is high, it indicates that the most sensitive groups are present in the river and that, by inference, the pollution levels are low. The power of invertebrate communities as an indicator of river condition and as a tool to identify what pressures are causing the degradation of an aquatic ecosystem, has, in recent years, been even further increased by the development of a number of new indices. These indices, which include the Proportion  of  Sediment‐sensitive  Invertebrates  (PSI) index and the SPEcies  At  Risk  from  Pesticides  (SPEARPESTICIDES ) index, allow the impacts of specific pollutants, such as sediment or pesticides, to be evaluated in terms of their impact on the invertebrate communities living in the river. 12  A pair of mayfly nymphs  © Ross Hoddinott ‐ 2020 Vision 
  13. 13. 13      SPECIAL FEATURE  Going with the flow Over the centuries, man has sought to control the water in our rivers and streams and harness and exploit its energy. We have built weirs, embankments and impoundments and we have straightened, widened and deepened river channels in our efforts to control the flow of water as it passes through the landscape. These physical modifications influence the ‘hydro‐morphology’ of a river, impairing the flow and sediment dynamics and reducing biological connectivity and, in turn, these impacts have ecological consequences. Hydro‐morphology influences habitats at all scales; consider how the dimensions of a river channel change throughout a catchment or the distribution of riffles and pools along a stretch of moorland stream. Even the hydraulic conditions around a single stone can create habitat diversity at a micro‐scale. Flow is considered to be a ’maestro’ that influences many of the fundamental ecological characteristics of river ecosystems and  changes in flow have impacts across broad taxonomic groups including plants, invertebrates and fish. Variations in habitat determine the distribution and abundance of aquatic organisms and many aquatic organisms have evolved life history strategies in response to the hydrological regime in which they live. Modifying flow and limiting the ability of organisms to move freely throughout a river and wetland system can lead to isolation of populations and failure in reproduction, which can ultimately lead to local extinctions. Given the dense population of our small island and the pressures this density places on our natural resources, wholesale removal of man‐made structures and total re‐naturalisation of our watercourses is an unrealistic prospect. There are, however, numerous ways in which connectivity can be restored and a more natural flow can be enhanced (see examples below).   Creation of Meander Features   Rivers and streams have historically been straightened, deepened and widened in order to change their response to flood waters or to improve their navigability. Flow deflectors can be used to create more varied flow within a heavily modified river channel and increase ecological diversity. Sequences of meander features reintroduced along the channel on alternating sides of the riverbank can also increase sinuosity of flow and create new areas of sediment deposition within the channel. Meander features can be constructed using either wooden or boulder deflectors or through use of artificial shoals.     Modification of Weirs and Culverts  Weirs, culverts and other man‐made obstacles alter flow and act as barriers to migratory species of fish and various other aquatic species. In some cases, weir removal is possible, though in most cases modifications to the obstacle and installation of a fish pass is the most suitable solution. Adjustment of culverts in upper catchments can also improve river continuity and influence bed‐load. Once improvement works have been carried out, it is sometimes appropriate to carry out fish translocations from elsewhere in the river system to supplement depleted or absent stocks in a previously isolated branch. 
  14. 14. 14    SPECIAL FEATURE  THE MAJORITY OF THE  LANDSCAPE HERE IN THE WESTCOUNTRY IS  MANAGED, TO A  GREATER OR LESSER  EXTENT, BY MAN. GOOD HABITAT MANAGEMENT, BOTH IN THE RIPARIAN ZONE AND ‘IN‐CHANNEL’, CAN HELP  TO IMPROVE WATER QUALITY AND HAVE ECOLOGICAL BENEFITS FOR A WIDE RANGE OF SPECIES.   Managing River Habitats for Ecological Benefits Although erosion is an important natural process that shapes the character of a river, where there is a lack of vegetation along the riverbank and little organic and woody debris in the channel, erosion and habitat degradation can quickly accelerate. Re‐establishing and managing vegetation along the river corridor creates a diversity of habitats that improves connectivity and supports diverse assemblages of native wildlife. Vegetation Management  The root structures of riparian vegetation help to stabilise the banks and prevent erosion, protecting the channel from the direct force of flow and reducing erosion. Vegetation also acts to intercept rainwater before it reaches the ground and plants absorb water through their roots and release it back through their leaves into the atmosphere. These processes help to control run‐off rates and regulate the overall quantity and timing of water entering the rivers. Vegetation also plays a role in filtering water, removing sediment and breaking down the pollutants in it before it reaches the river. A mixture of native grasses, scrub and trees along the river corridor provide valuable habitat in which sensitive plant and invertebrate species can thrive, and also provides shelter, nesting and foraging opportunities for birds and mammals. Overhanging trees and shrubs shade the water, keeping it cooler in summer and preventing excessive growth of aquatic plants and algae. Low branches and tree roots provide spawning areas for some species of fish and refuges where fish can escape from predators or rest when flow rates are high. Bankside and wetland vegetation also has a huge aesthetic value to society, as it can enrich the lives of those people who live, work and spend leisure time in their local catchment. Fencing riverbanks and providing designated livestock drinking points protects plants from grazing animals and by planting and managing trees and scrub, a more diverse mosaic of riparian habitats can be established. Traditional woodland management techniques, such as coppicing and pollarding, also enable effective management of tree cover without removing the stabilising effect of the stump and roots. The De Lank River, Cornwall 
  15. 15. 15    SPECIAL FEATURE  Woody debris Trees and other bankside vegetation also create ’debris’ that falls into the water. Everything from leaf litter and twigs to branches and whole trees are natural components of a river system and, as such, have an important role to play in freshwater ecosystems. Woody debris tends to accumulate at specific points in a stream, affecting geomorphic processes, sediment storage and routing, stream bed and bank structure, water velocity variations in the water column, and the temperature of the water. It can also help to stabilise river banks and river beds, resisting and deflecting flows. As the debris gets lodged in place, it traps and retains sediment, including silt and organic matter, improving the quality of the water. In addition to is physical impacts, woody debris also provides shelter for many species of animals and, along with the invertebrates that live in it, also provides food sources for many other species of invertebrates, birds and fish. Improving Gravel Beds  Gravel beds are geo‐morphological features that provide habitat for a wide range of species, the most iconic of which are the salmonid species of fish (trout and salmon). Salmonids require clean gravel beds for use as spawning grounds where they excavate a nest, or redd, in which to deposit their fertilised eggs. Gravel beds can be lost or damaged if there is a lack of sediment supply, usually due to historic removal of gravels or where man‐made structures, such as weirs and dams, have prevented the natural transportation of gravels downstream. They can also become clogged with silt, making them unsuitable for the eggs of salmonids, which need a supply of cool, clean, well‐oxygenated water in order to survive. It is possible to re‐instate gravels in areas where they have been lost. When re‐instating gravels, it is important to consider the stone type, as well as the size and shape of the particles, to match them to the naturally occurring gravels of that particular river or stream. It is also important to consider the potential mobility of the re‐introduced gravel in the future and to plan how a natural and more sustainable supply of sediment can be secured in the long term. It is also possible to clean the gravel where existing gravel beds have become clogged with silt. Assessing the health of  a gravel bed  © Ross Hoddinott ‐ 2020 Vision  Woody debris 
  16. 16. 16    The Country Sports South West Project, funded by DEFRA and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development ,aims to ensure that the South West region becomes the premier tourism destination for country sports. The project also aims to improve the visitor experience and participation, while creating sustainable rural tourism businesses that can both respond to new challenges in the future and exploit any new opportunities whenever they arise.  ANGLING NEWS  Introducing theWestcountry Angling Passport’s new ambassadors THE CENTRAL AIM OF THE WESTCOUNTRY ANGLING PASSPORT IS TO FACILITATE   THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF PREVIOUSLY UNTAPPED FISHING RESOURCES   AND, IN THE PROCESS, HELP FARMERS AND LANDOWNERS PROTECT AND ENHANCE   THE RIVERS AND STREAMS ON THEIR LAND. OUR CAPABILITY TO DELIVER THESE GOOD   WORKS AND PROMOTE THE PASSPORT SCHEME HAS BEEN GIVEN A HUGE BOOST, THANKS   TO OUR MOST RECENT RECRUITS, THE ANGLING AMBASSADORS.  As the Passport goes from strength‐to‐strength and new beats are added to the passport scheme each year (we had 9 new beats to add to the scheme this season alone), the help of our three new volunteers is invaluable. The ambassadors, all of whom are well known and well respected local anglers, have kindly agreed to lend their support to the passport scheme, helping to promote the benefits of fishing on passport beats and contributing to the practical conservation work we carry out to help maintain the rivers. Mike Weaver, Luke Bannister and Derrick Jones have all been enthusiastic supporters of the Passport for many years. By volunteering as Angling Ambassadors, we here at the Trust are better able in the future to co‐ordinate their efforts and target promotional and practical works in the areas where they are most needed. We are hugely grateful to them for taking part in this new initiative and for their continued and much valued support.  Mike Weaver   The highly regarded Mike Weaver is well known for his contributions on contemporary angling issues in the popular angling press. He is a contributor to Trout and Salmon, providing feature articles on angling in the Westcountry, and compiles the monthly fishing report for the Devon Area. Mike is perhaps the most well‐known Westcountry based fly fisherman, having fished the rivers of the region for over 40 years. He was the founding chairman of the Wild Trout Trust and the author of the now classic text ‘The Pursuit of Wild Trout’. Mike has supported the Passport for many years, writing articles about the scheme and providing us with many captivating photographs. Derrick Jones  Derrick is an AAPGAI advanced fishing instructor and guide. When not working full time for HM Coastguard he runs Adventure Fly Fishing UK, a company that offers fly casting tuition and guiding throughout the country. Derrick fishes throughout the UK and Iceland, though the river he knows best is the River Mole, his local river near where he lives in North Devon. He has a particular interest in wild fishing experience and regularly undertakes camping orientated fishing expeditions. These have included trips to Iceland and a marathon trip around the Passport beats in 2011, where 150 miles and 9 beats were covered by bike in only 5 days (see Confluence edition 13 for the full story)! Luke Bannister  Based in Bude, North Cornwall, Luke is a professional maker of modern English bamboo rods using traditional methods and has developed the now famous ‘Superfast’ cane rod series. He grew up fishing the small rivers of Devon and Cornwall, such as the Tamar and tributaries and the streams of the high moors. He has subsequently fished extensively in Wales and Norway for his favourite quarry, brown trout and grayling. He is also an experienced saltwater fly fisherman, fishing extensively along the North Cornwall coast for bass. Luke has supported the Passport for many years, supplying photographs and videos of his experiences while fishing the passport beats.
  17. 17. 17    DEBATE  ‘Valuing nature’: morally wrong or the only route to salvation? RECENT DEBATE IN THE NATIONAL MEDIA HAS BROUGHT INTO QUESTION THE WISDOM OF VALUING NATURE AND BOTH SIDES  HAVE PUT FORWARD COMPELLING ARGUMENTS. HERE AT THE TRUST, WHERE OUR WORK INVOLVES PUTTING THE CONCEPT OF  PAYMENT FOR ECOSYSTEM SERVICES INTO PRACTICE, WE HAVE OUR OWN, MORE PRACTICAL TAKE ON THE DEBATE. TRUST  DIRECTOR, DR DYLAN BRIGHT, EXPLAINS WHY HE THINKS A WELL‐INTENTIONED AND PROGRESSIVE PRINCIPLE IS GETTING  LOST IN THE MIDST OF SENSATIONALIST HEADLINES.  On one side of the debate individuals are terrified by the very idea of valuing nature, something they consider to be a priceless wonder and not something that can have a monetary value put on it as a commodity to sell (or destroy). Individuals on the other side of the debate say that getting governments and societies to recognise the economic value of nature is the only way in which it can be saved because otherwise it is overlooked in our national accounts as worthless. We, as practitioners, agree and disagree in part with both sides and feel that we have a more grounded viewpoint to throw into the mix.  Yes, nature is beyond value, but attempts to value the benefits society gets from the natural environment, from the processes that ecosystems carry out and on which all life depends, is not the same as putting a price on nature to sell. Considering the natural environment in terms of the benefits we get from it provides us with a tool that can be used to work out the cost of protecting and restoring the environment and, importantly, to identify those who should be paying these costs. The reality of the situation here in the UK is that our landscape is largely set‐up to provide us with food, as historically this has been the dominant driver of land use. However, we now realise that the relentless drive to produce more and more food from the land has come at a cost to other things that are needed to sustain life (including us). By evaluating the landscape and how we use it, we can identify areas of land where land use or management could be changed in order to protect and restore the ecosystems that are important for other services (such as the provision of clean water, carbon storage and the recycling of nutrients). In our opinion, it is only after this ‘planning process’ is complete that economics should be used to work out the costs and to identify those who might benefit from changes in land management. We are not putting a price on nature; we are working out the cost of its protection within a living working landscape and who should rightly pay for that protection. After all, we are already paying for environmental protection via general taxation and regulation through public bodies. Although this may have protected small pockets of nature here and there, it has failed to protect the wider environment in any coherent or effective way. This raises the question; who set the level of tax required to deliver environmental protection and on what basis did they evaluate the worth of nature in order to set this level of tax? In Professor Lawton’s review of the current state of England’s wildlife network, he concluded that our current collection of protected sites are too small and too isolated and that this situation was likely to get worse in the future. Surely if the current method isn’t working, it is worth exploring other ways in which society might pay to protect and restore the wider natural environment across the landscape? Admittedly, this sensible approach is not as newsworthy as national headlines about knowing the ‘cost of everything and the value of nothing’ and ‘nature worth 10 billion a year to the UK economy’ but we would ask those who seek to sensationalise this approach not to destroy its fragile shoots while they publicly wrestle to understand it. Of even greater interest to us, however, are the hidden benefits arising. We will gain a level of social learning from this process; if funds are more directly and locally hypothecated from those who benefit to those who provide, then society in general might learn to value the resources that the natural environment provides us with more than it does currently. Food comes from the supermarket, water from the tap and wildlife from nature reserves are worryingly common attitudes. The new swathe of environmental jargon that has come into play may be unpalatable to the nature lovers amongst us, but we need to look past the language, the talk of ‘providers’ and ‘users’ and of value and markets, and consider the merits of the real objectives behind valuing nature. Here at the Trust, the concept of ‘Payments for Ecosystem Services’ has enabled us to work with local communities, businesses and other local interest groups to begin realising the value of the natural environment and that investment in its protection and restoration is money well spent. Now surely that’s not such a bad thing? 
  18. 18. 18    EDUCATION  Thank you to our supporters and funders WE  WOULD  LIKE  TO  SAY  A  HUGE  THANK‐YOU  TO  ALL  OF  OUR  SUPPORTERS  AND  FUNDERS  ‐  WITHOUT  YOUR  SUPPORT  WE  WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO ENHANCE THE HEALTH AND NATURAL VALUE OF OUR RIVERS AND RIVER CATCHMENTS.  One of the principal aims of the Westcountry Rivers Trust is to engage, inspire and educate young people of all ages. Here are just some of the educational activities the Trust has undertaken so far in 2012. Higher Education  Three MSc students from the University of Plymouth completed their work placements with us earlier in the year. The students assisted in the launch of the Tamar Pilot catchment management project, providing us with much valued help in preparing for the launch meeting and ensuring that the day ran smoothly. The students also gained a valuable insight into the challenges of engaging a wide range of stakeholders in the development of a catchment management plan, which we hope proves useful in their future careers. In addition to offering placement opportunities to students in higher education, several Trust staff have also been invited to give lectures on environmental science, river restoration and catchment management to students from the University of Plymouth, the University of Reading and Duchy College in 2012. Salmon in the Classroom During the Spring, several primary schools in the river Exe catchment enjoyed our Salmon in the Classroom programme, with the children successfully raising their own fertilised salmon eggs and watching the amazing process of the eggs hatching into alevins and growing on into tiny salmon fry. The children then helped to release their fry back into their local river, learning about the importance of a healthy river ecosystems for the survival of the majestic salmon, as well as all the other wildlife that lives there. Fly Fishing Taster and Demo  For the first time this year, the Westcountry Angling Passport teamed up with the South West Lakes Trust to run an event as Inspiring and Educating a New Generation Youngsters engaged in real ‘hands‐on’ learning and getting wet feet   part of National Fishing Month. Despite the unseasonal summer weather, nearly forty people attended the event, the aim of which was to give both experienced fishermen and fly fishing newcomers the opportunity to have a try at fly casting under the expert guidance of AAPGAI Master Gary Champion. There was also the opportunity to learn about the art of fly tying, with demonstrations by local fly fishermen, Mike Weaver. Despite the wet and windy weather, the day was a great success and was enjoyed by both newcomers and experienced fishermen alike.
  19. 19. 19    WRT DIGITAL   Contrary to common expectations, this usage is no longer dominated by the younger generation, as the statistics show that the majority of users sit in the 20 to 40 year old age bracket. Social media is increasingly used by individuals as their primary means of keeping up‐to‐date with the news around them. Twitter, in particular, allows the user to pick and choose the people, organisations and sources from which they want to receive news and information. By joining in the debate and providing engaging comment, news and links to other online content, such as the new WRT videos available on our very own You Tube channel, the Trust is now taking the opportunity to widen its audience and get Thanks to AARC Project funding and the forward thinking vision of the original funding bid, the Westcountry Rivers Trust is now the proud owner of an underwater Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). This piece of equipment joins our team to enhance the Trust’s underwater capabilities. Although the Trust has several qualified divers amongst its staff, if we were to even think about putting a diver in the water we would be open to the Health and Safety Executive regulations governing diving at work, resulting in escalating costs for medicals, HSE training, insurance, equipment and so forth, before even setting foot (or fin) in the water. A much more economic approach is to send a machine in place of a person (which is also a much safer approach too). With this in mind, the ROV now joins the growing collection of technical equipment available for Trust staff to investigate our rivers. The ROV will allow us valuable insight into the underwater world and will help us to observe and record aspects of the habitat that would otherwise remain unseen. We hope to make particular use of the ROV for filming fish, especially salmon, in order to observe their behaviour in response to food and predatory actions. We will be able to place the ROV “on station” at a site, enabling us to record numbers of migratory fish passing a certain point or to examine effects of physical parameters on fish behaviour. Our underwater vehicle is equipped with a fine resolution colour camera that sends real‐time video footage through an umbilical cable to the surface operator. This footage can be examined in real time or recorded for analysis, if required. The camera, through variable control tilt, can cover 180° vertical field of view and the port and starboard ‘thruster’ propellers give the ROV 360° turning capability. In short, this means that our mechanical diver can look anywhere we want it to. Two high efficiency halogen lights ensure that whatever depth or low visibility conditions we choose to operate in, the picture returning to the surface will be crisp and clear for a good view of what lies beneath. The ROV is a valuable asset, both for the Trust and for the Trust’s trading arm, Tamar Consulting, who will be using it for commercial work in both the freshwater and marine environments. The ROV is available to hire for work, scientific exploration or simply for pleasure. Keep an eye on the WRT video collection (www.youtube.com/ WestcountryriversTV) for footage of any ground‐breaking underwater discoveries! First Forays into theWorld of Social Media At the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, ceremony director Danny Boyle paid tribute to Sir Timothy Berners‐Lee, the British inventor of the World Wide Web. The World Wide Web has, in essence, enabled us to share information over the internet using computers and its invention has revolutionised the way we share ideas, do business and, in more recent years, the way we socialise and communicate with friends and family in our every day lives. The rise and rise of social media in today’s world means that around 50% of the UK’s population uses Facebook, while over 26 million people in the UK use Twitter; the figures for the rest of the world are truly astonishing! even more information out to the public about the issues that really matter to us. Since joining the social media community, the Trust has made contact with some familiar faces and many new ones. We have quickly built up a profile amongst environmental and conservation scientists, students, anglers, media organisations and farming interests, and the number of followers we have continues to grow. Why not join us online? Search for us on: Twitter: @WestcountryRT Facebook: Westcountry Rivers Trust You Tube: WestcountryRiversTV Underwater ROV Joins theWRTTeam The ROV  
  20. 20. 20    The Westcountry Rivers Trust is an environmental charity  (Charity no. 1135007, Company no. 06545646) established in  1995 to secure the preservation, protection, development  and improvement of the rivers, streams, watercourses and  water impoundments in the Westcountry and to advance the  education of the public in the management of water.    Westcountry Rivers Trust  Rain‐Charm House, Kyl Cober Parc, Stoke Climsland,  Callington, Cornwall, PL17 8PH.  Email: info@wrt.org.uk; website: www.wrt.org.uk