Hydromorphology Training Course, Northern Ireland

Earlier this week we held a training course in Cookstown, Northern Ireland, for the Rivers Agency local area staff, entitled Introduction to Hydromorphology for River Management. 29 participants from engineering and design backgrounds attended the training event which aimed to identify the main hydromorphological features and processes of rivers.

The morning session started with Marc Naura providing an introduction to the topic of hydromorphology, how the term established, and the main considerations for restoration activities. After a short refreshment break, Marc gave a presentation on how to identify common features and processes in rivers. This focused on riffles, pools and bars, and the processes of erosion, transportation and deposition. Understanding how these features are made and the importance of natural processes for ecosystem services is key for a healthy stream and greater biodiversity. A short activity followed this presentation where participants were provided with a number of photographs to study and point out the features and processes occurring to help them identify these issues in the field later on in the afternoon session. Many of the attendees confidently pointed out the features, such as graded bars and eroding banks, and discussed the energy drivers causing these characteristics.

Following this session, Martin Janes presented on how river restoration, natural flood management, green infrastructure and hydromorphology are important considerations for natural functioning systems. He presented a range of examples on how restoration can benefit ecology, wildlife, recreation and public safety, by considering natural management, and involving the community. For example, on Mains Burn, Scotland, a lack of hydromorphological consideration led to poor design during the opening of a culvert for improved habitats, and the stretch had to be redesigned. Participants used ideas from this presentation in the final session before lunch, as they were divided into 4 groups to discuss how to improve a river channel in a particular case study example. One group in particular had to decide how to improve a culvert on a development site, which needed to be opened up whilst incorporating habitat. They quickly came to the decision that a two-stage channel would suit, and installing bars would improve sinuosity and encourage natural processes to help biodiversity.

After lunch, we all travelled the short car journey to the Killymoon River, a tributary of the Ballinderry River. After parking our small fleet of yellow Rivers Agency vans on the roadside, we walked across the previously drained land down to the river, where participants were asked to study the river and sketch any features they noticed. The short stretch provided good examples of bars, mid-channel bars, bed incision, graded sediment, and weirs. One weir in particular had been undermined leading to bank erosion, which provided an interesting feature for the participants to discuss. The bed incision at the banks has caused the riparian trees and vegetation to fall horizontally towards the stream, creating a characteristic J-shape. Marc and Martin encouraged thought provoking discussion by asking the attendees to consider the range of processes occurring in-stream, and delegates were happy to question any features they noticed.

After a slightly drizzly site visit, we reconvened to summarise the main points of the training course. Marc and Martin answered any questions from participants, and provided suggestions for anyone interested in learning more on the topic of hydromorphology.

Thank you to all the participants for coming along, and to Gareth and Gail at the Rivers Agency for their support throughout the planning of this event.


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