Guest blog - Natural Resources Wales
With the long history of industrial heritage in Wales, our rivers are some of the most modified in the World. These physical modifications, which include changes to geomorphology and hydrology of the rivers is the main reason for WFD failures in Wales. NRW has prioritised focus and improvement of these issues in order to increase resilience of freshwater habitat and species. As the body responsible for ensuring that Wales natural resources are conserved and brought into a high standard, NRW have created an Integrated River Restoration Programme (IRRP) within the Organisation to ensure these issues are properly addressed through an increase in training, funding, planning and delivery.
Recent examples of the way the IRRP will work include the restoration of the Afon Merin – a highly modified tributary of the Rheidol that had been drained to lower the water table and make the land more suitable for agriculture. The area is now part of the Welsh Government Woodland Estate, and the project brought together staff from Forestry and Freshwater/Fisheries conservation to deliver restoration and reconnect the stream with its natural floodplain.
The Merin project was shortlisted for the coveted RRC UK River Prize - 2020 UK River Prize | The RRC (NRW were clearly robbed of first prize!)
A suite of Physical Modification plans were drawn up for various catchments across Wales in 2019 and some of these have been taken through to feasibility with delivery likely over the 21/22 FY. A series of SAC Restoration Plans commissioned last year including the Cleddaus, and new ones commissioned this year include the Afon Tywi (and tributaries) – Nant Y Fendrod, Roath Brook, Nant Glandulais, Afon Wen, Dwyfor and Dwyfach and the Pembroke River are currently being written to inform future delivery.
A team within NRW has recently submitted a bid to the EU (our last chance to do so) under the LIFE Nature Programme for funding to bring four major SAC rivers into Good Condition through the removal of pressures and increase of resilience for SAC species and Habitats. This project will cover the Cleddau system, Teifi, Tywi and Usk rivers. The size of the project area (Fig 1 - covering a large part of South Mid Wales), combined with land management and habitat improvements will see a measurable improvement in Favourable Condition Status for freshwater species.
Fig 1: 4 Rivers For LIFE project area
Other freshwater species based work delivered through partnerships with external NGO’s (The Rivers Trusts under the umbrella of Afonydd Cymru) has delivered improvements throughout Wales on longitudinal connectivity issues and riparian issues through the Sustainable Fisheries Project, and input on fisheries management from a wide range of partners continue through the Wales Fisheries Forum - Natural Resources Wales / Fisheries
More on Wales’ rivers - Natural Resources Wales / River projects