University helps restore major river for farmers and wildlife

Thursday 13 June 2013
River Ribble
River Ribble

University of Salford staff and students have carried out work which has helped to restore a Site of Special Scientific Interest on the River Ribble - one of northern England’s most important rivers.

As part of a consortium of agencies, geography students led by lecturer Dr Neil Entwistle used advanced laser mapping to create a detailed plan of a large stretch of the river at Long Preston Deeps in North Yorkshire. Using the technology, they were able to predict danger points for erosion and the effects of heavy rainfall and flooding.

In 2004 it was recognised that the removal of the floodplain and woodlands, plus deepening and straightening the river had caused damage to the local environment.  Due to increased water speeds the river was eroding its banks at a rapid rate and wildlife was vanishing from the area. This included 60 bird species and salmon and trout stocks.

As a result, the Environment Agency, Natural England, the RSPB, the Ribble Rivers Trust, JBA Consulting, and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and County Council got together to work with over 80 landowners to restore the river to its natural state. This work has now been shortlisted for the European River Restoration Prize.

Tree planting and removing defences to restore flood plains resulted in a significant increase in wildlife with species like sand martins returning to their nests, safe from flooding.

The project has been a beneficial experience for students who have used laser technology to create detailed maps of erosion over time and to predict pressure points for flood defences.  Rather than the traditional use of photos taken from a fixed point, the laser technology provides data down to a single centimetre of river bank and can be fed into a computer to make accurate habitat predictions, show velocity patterns and quantify erosion and deposition.

Dr Neil Entwistle is the lecturer who led the Salford contribution.  “Our work on the Ribble has been a long-term project that is now delivering benefits to everyone who uses the river, and to wildlife.

“It’s also been important for our students to get involved in practical conservation like this and gain experience of working on site with agencies and local stakeholders to deliver a project.”

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