The two day conference was a very interesting and educational experience with a range of talks and workshops from different organisations available. There certainly was a lot to take in and lessons learned from other organisations projects that could be applied to any future projects in the UBOCP area.
As there was an array of talks, some of which run in parallel workshops, it was not possible to attend every presentation; I attended talks on NFM, partnership approaches to river restoration, evidencing change (assessing impacts and outputs), planning and implementation, anastomosing streams, catchment scale biodiversity, and workshops on sediment.
What I found as one of the most useful talks was on managing sediment. This was followed up by my workshop selection about sediments on day 2. I had a basic understanding of sediments and the problems they posed but after the talks and workshop I have a stronger grasp on sources, like construction, development also particularly those sources which may not be immediately obvious such as grassland and pasture; sediment pathways like, rain, runoff, wind; and management, in the form of re-use or disposal of removed sediment and mechanisms to prevent sediment pollution such as silt traps, bubble-netting, capture channels and other methods which can be applied to any projects on rivers in the catchment to reduce sediment pollution.
There were a number of interesting presentations on projects that are currently ongoing or have come to a close.
One example that appealed was the Tweed Forum group who discovered that not only was there another River Tweed in Australia but that it had very similar characteristics to the River Tweed the forum worked on in Scotland. For them it was enough of an excuse for a visit and learning exercise down under and connect with those that manage it.
Perhaps there may be another Great Ouse that shares the similar characteristics to ours that we could learn from, ideally somewhere warm and sunny with a good selection of local beer…
Another incredibly interesting piece of research and project was the anastomosing streams restoring channel-floodplain connectivity. By effectively raising the river bed and allowing it to spill over more permanently to the floodplain it creates a wide but shallow area of a number of weaving streams with variable flow rates. When the research was tested out on 3 rivers in Oregon, US, the initial resulting impacts on the surrounding landscape and in river biodiversity were positive, an example being salmon populations increasing by multiples in some locations and populations re-establishing after a long period of absence in others.
Whilst this isn’t necessarily something that could be achieved quite as much in the UBOC due to constraints with land ownership but is perhaps something we should keep our eye on and engage with where opportunities arise to give some much needed morphological diversity to our riverine environment.
I would have liked to have seen more discussion on biodiversity and biomass within aquatic environments. Biodiversity was paid lip service in a couple of talks but not really discussed in much detail and none of the projects of the talks I attended looked at increasing biodiversity in the aquatic environment and the value of doing so.
In summary, there was a lot to take away from this conference with a broad range of experiences and expertise contributing to the experience through talks and workshops. I feel I got a lot out of the conference through not just the talks themselves but ample networking opportunities that allowed me not just meet new people but also build on the relationships of those who I had met on previous occasions. I would like to thank the Upper and Bedford Ouse Catchment for providing me with the opportunity to attend the RRC conference.
Lewis Dickinson, The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire