Here at JPR, we are fully in support of The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s new public awareness campaign, Wetlands Can!, urging people to back their pledge to create 100,000 hectares of healthy wetlands around the UK. This impressive goal will go some way to solving the climate, nature and wellbeing crisis in this country.
WWT plan to use public support to call for change and urge the UK government and other decision makers to prioritise and invest in more wetlands – 90% of which have been lost in England alone.
WWT are also encouraging people to get practical by creating mini-wetlands, including ponds and drainpipe gardens, in their backyards and communities. These can be built in even the smallest of outdoor spaces. A toolkit on how to create these is available from the campaign website.
Wetlands Can! is backed by Kate Humble and Sir Mark Rylance and will run for two years steadily building momentum to put wetlands at the heart of solving the UK’s climate, nature and well-being crises.
JPR Environmental is supporting The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust as a Corporate Partner as part of our 21st Anniversary celebrations – so we are especially happy to back this campaign on a subject which is close to our hearts and we wish WWT every success.
A population of beavers, of unknown origin, has been present on the River Otter since around 2008. However, when video evidence emerged proving that the beavers had given birth to kits (young) in 2014, the UK Government initially planned to have them removed from the river.
Devon Wildlife Trust opposed their removal and presented an alternative plan – to turn the situation into a five-year trial to monitor the beavers’ effects on the landscape.
Due to the amazing support of local people, landowners, farmers, businesses and the Devon Wildlife Trust, the government has agreed that the beavers can stay.
Image courtesy of Todd Kulesza
Why might the beavers be doing JPR out of a job?
Beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK hundreds of years ago. Their reappearance on the River Otter in Devon and analysis of their activities has shown that they are incredibly beneficial to the local environment.
Everyone knows that beavers are natural tree-fellers but they are also natural river engineers. Just like JPR, they manage vegetation, open out tree canopies and create leaky dams that create new habitats and prevent flooding downstream.
We are interested to read that GWT have launched a new strategy and are rationalising their collection of reserves throughout Gloucestershire.
Their aim is to have fewer, larger reserves to create a better outcome overall for wildlife habitat in the county.
The decision will not have been easy as it will mean that the Trust stops managing some of their smaller reserves – this is likely to be unpopular with some of their members and supporters. However, the Trust has assured people that they will do everything they can to find others to take on the long-term management of those smaller reserves.
The Trust are quick to point out that this new strategy is the result of a review that has occurred over 18 months and is not about cost cutting. They are looking at the £1 million they spend on managing land for wildlife each year and where best this is spent for the benefit of the greatest area of land. They argue that this new strategy significantly increases their ability to deliver the ‘Bigger, better and more joined up’ approach, highlighted as vital to nature’s recovery by the Lawton report.
We at JPR Environmental will be interested to see where this strategy leads the Trust and will watch with interest – and we’ll leave the last word to the Trust:
This move also enables us to take on new sites and do more work with other landowners, farmers and wildlife organisations, which will expand and connect existing wildlife-rich sites within Priority Landscape Areas. By the end of 2021 we will have fewer nature reserves, but the total area of land managed for wildlife may already be slightly higher than before the estate review. This not only shifts our work to a landscape-scale, but reduces paperwork so that more time can be spent doing what matters most.
JPR Environmental are delighted to have been involved in the construction work on a wetland treatment system at the world-famous wildlife site at Slimbridge.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, as part of the Severn Vision Project, has designed this water treatment system to ensure that any water used in the reserve is cleaned naturally.
We were involved in the excavation of the ponds, the construction of the ditches, the installation of the pumps and finally, in the planting. It was during the wonderful, warm, summer months last year – which seem like a lifetime away in the depths of a cold January.
The pools are already creating breeding areas for frogs, toads and newts and there is now perfect habitat for wading birds and dragonflys.
The overall result is a multi-functioning wetland treatment system that includes open water, reedbed, surface flow marsh and shallow emergent swamp covering an area larger than an Olympic swimming pool. It is efficient and clean, and allows for better water controls across the whole reserve while providing habitat for a variety of wetland animals.
We have been involved in so many great projects with WWT over the years – this one has been particularly satisfying. If you would like to read more about the project on WWT’s website, please click this link. Alternatively, you can read our full case study here.
We are delighted to be sponsoring the autumn conference of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) this December.
The title of the conference is Time to Change: Putting the Environment at the Heart of Social and Economic Wellbeing.
The conference comes at a crucial time. So many aspects of our lives have been affected by the spread of Covid-19 with huge impacts on our society, our economy and our perspectives on what the future could look like.
Of even greater significance to the world than this pandemic is the climate emergency; an emergency for which there is no vaccine. The spread of Covid-19 has put us at a crossroads with choices about whether to ‘return to normal’ or take a greener path by putting action to tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity loss at the core of political and financial instruments to aid economic recovery.
It seems that every week (sometimes every day) there are new announcements locally, nationally and internationally about how we are going to ‘build back better’ or ‘build back greener’ so this conference couldn’t be more timely.
We are looking forward to the talks and presentations and of course, to catching up with many of our colleagues and clients.
Japanese Knotweed causes developers and property owners stress and expense in the UK and there have been many discussions about the best way to manage its growth.
Most countries are very reluctant to use biological controls as these have often caused more problems than they were originally introduced to control. If you have an hour to spare, check out the often hilarious documentary about the introduction of the Hawaiian sugar-cane toads through Australia in a botched effort to introduce them as counter pests (Cane Toads: An Unnatural History).
However, the Dutch government has made an unusual decision to issue an exemption on the ban on introducing alien species in the face of spiralling costs related to controlling Japanese Knotweed.
Preliminary tests in the Netherlands have suggested that Japanese knotweed psyllids or leaf fleas, can kill young shoots and potentially stop the plant growing by sucking up their sap. Now they just need to check whether the fleas can successfully hibernate over winter and establish themselves in the new year.
Suzanne Lommen, the entomologist coordinating the trial has said: “Complete pest control is extremely difficult and very expensive. We will have to combine various methods to get the Asian knotweed under control. We know from the Japanese knotweed psyllid that it can kill young shoots and slow down or even stop the growth of the plant by sucking up sap – nutrition – from the plant. If the psyllid can establish, reproduce and spread, and do the damage we see in the breeding trials, it can hopefully inhibit the growth and spread of Asian knotweed. Then you have a very cheap and environmentally friendly solution with many years of effect that you can combine with the more expensive methods.”
It has been concluded that the psyllids do not pose a threat to native biodiversity but there is a chance the fleas will not take to the Dutch climate – hence the anxious wait to see if they successfully survive the winter. We will watch with interest.
The latest edition of Waterlife from The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust has a fascinating piece on the Paleo Channel work on their reserve at Slimbridge.
JPR have been involved in the project and we have thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck into the work.
“Forging watery corridors between our blue and green spaces creates habitat for wildlife, providing safe passageways for animals to disperse and forage”, says WWT in their article.
This new waterway, which links the nort of the reserve with the south, has been brought back to life for birds, plants, insects and mammals. Wigeon and white-fronted geese were already using this new wetland corridor last winter. This summer, wetland plants started to colonise and more than five different species of dragonflies and damselflies have been seen hovering above the water. Shoals of small fish have attracted grey herons and littel egrets and there have been signs of otters at both ends of the watercourse.
Here is the full article that appeared in The WWT magazine, 214 November 2020/February 2021:
Restoring ancient waterways
Connecting wetlands is one of WWT’s priorities for the future. Forging watery corridors between our blue and green spaces creates habitat for wildlife, providing safe passageways for animals to disperse and forage.
One new waterway – which we created from an old saltmarsh creek at WWT Slimbridge last autumn – has already become a hit with local wildlife.
Linking up the north of the reserve with the south, where the visitor centre is, this ‘palaeo-channel’ has been brought back to life for birds, plants, insects and mammals.
The word palaeo means old or ancient, particularly when referring to geological periods of time. This particular water channel has been cleared and now follows the same route it traced centuries ago, before the marshes were drained.
The new wetland corridor has already been adopted by local wildlife. Last winter, wigeon and white-fronted geese found it much to their liking. This summer, wetland plants started to colonise and more than five different species of dragonflies and damselflies have been seen hovering above the water.
Shoals of small fish have attracted grey herons and little egrets, and a sedge warbler was seen in this newly restored area of the reserve – our first sighting in many decades of recording.
Otter poo – known as spraint – has been found at either end of the watercourse, where it meets the ditches. The new corridor means these enchanting mustelids can now swim along the channel, and no longer have to cross open fields to move between one part of the reserve and another.
This palaeo-channel is part of just over three kilometres of ditches that have been restored or created across the reserve, connecting new areas of wetlands and providing more space for Slimbridge’s diverse wildlife to roam, feed and find a mate. We also hope the new ‘blue corridor’ will be popular with migratory eels and other fish species; linking up the various wetland channels will make it the perfect eel highway.
But our work doesn’t end there. We’re now linking two channels with a pond and a large nesting island intended for cranes. We have also been busy building bunds to run across low-lying areas to make access easier.
Work like this demonstrates that centuries of wetland destruction can be reversed and healthy ecosystems restored. It’s vital to link up wildlife hotspots with blue and green corridors. We continually try to create a positive working balance between farming and wildlife, and believe the two can work hand in hand. Given time, funding and continuing support from others, we can work wonders for wildlife, together.
The paleo channels at the wildlife reserve at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire are a set of old depressions that run across what is now intensively managed grasslands and mark a line of old saltmarsh drainage.
One old channel is around 700m long, a few metres wide and around half a metre deep in places. The focus in opening this channel up has been to create open water in the middle of a wide, open area of land.
The project that JPR Environmental has worked on with The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) has been designed to attract a range of species and in particular, the wildlife that WWT is famous for, the grazing wildfowl: wigeon, teal and geese including white fronted geese. Many wildfowl like an open body of water in a big, wide open area.
There are other wildlife targets for this project including glaucous club-rush which has already colonised the edge of the channel and is associated with coastal floodplains and the wildlife they support.
Other birds have already been seen in the newly opened channel including broods of shovelers and wading birds, in particular, herons and egrets.
One of the aims of WWT is to look after migratory eel and fish populations and the good, clean water is going to be really valuable for them.
The project to open the channel has been hand in hand with a project to remove some larger trees to make the site more open. The reserve is already seeing increased use by wintering wildfowl with large numbers of wigeon, a species which is declining along the Severn.
The egrets have been the greatest suprise with how much they have used the area. Three species of egret are now common including little egret, cattle egret and great white egret. As egrets colonise the UK, this will be a valuable feeding area for them.
The removal of the trees and the opening of the channel has created some wide, open views which adds something to what would be a fairly sterile area of intensively managed grassland and has created some top notch wildlife habitat.
When residents of Stroud were offered a concrete dam as a solution to their flooding problems, councillors and the community pushed for a more natural solution.
Slow the flow and store more. That’s the essence of the Stroud Rural Sustainable Drainage (Rural SuDS) project in Gloucestershire, an innovative natural flood management project working to reduce flood risk and restore biodiversity throughout the catchment of the river Frome.
This article in the MJ (the management journal for local authority business) on 20th August describes the project in more detail (see page 12).
JPR Environmental are proud to have been involved in the project with our work at Horsley.
JPR Environmental work on many different projects from protected species through to complex erosion control and flood remediation projects. One such project that JPR has been involved in over recent years is the Stroud District Council`s (SDC`s) natural flood management scheme. The scheme has recently been praised by Government for the council`s approach to tackling flooding.
In a recent press report in the Stroud News and Journal the SDC’s natural flood management scheme has been highlighted as an exemplary approach to flooding, in a £5.2billion national Government strategy to tackle flooding. The below is an extract from the Stroud News and Journal and there is a link at the end of this news piece to read more.
Stroud’s Rural Sustainable Drainage Project (Rural SuDs) was initiated by community groups after areas of Stroud were flooded in 2007 and 2012.
The project is being delivered by Stroud District Council, who is working with local community groups, landowners and partner organisations to reduce the risk of flooding throughout the 250 square kilometre catchment of the River Frome and its tributaries.
Measures include creating `leaky dams’ which involves positioning fallen trees across water courses to slow the flow of flood water.
These measures can also encourage more water to soak into the ground, resulting in less travelling downstream and so reducing the risk of flooding.
Cllr Doina Cornell, Leader of Stroud District Council said: “The climate is changing very rapidly due the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, and adaptation will be a crucial part of the council’s future plans as we all need to be preparing for these changes in our climate.
“It is excellent news that great work from the community flood groups, Stroud District Council, the Environment Agency, Gloucestershire County Council and of course all the landowners who’ve bought into and supported it from the get go has been recognised at a national level.
“It is worth noting that the Stroud natural flood management scheme is one of the most cost effective schemes in the UK.”
John Robinthwaite, from JPR Environmental who have worked on flood remediation in the upper areas said: “We deal with projects across the UK, but for us as a company to work on such a project on our doorstep and one that impacts us directly we are proud of the work that we have done”.
David Lade, a landowner who has worked with the Rural SuDs project said: “Just like most people living near water courses, we are concerned about flood risk and the quality of the natural environment that the stream provides. I was therefore very happy to work with the experts at Stroud District Council for them to create natural flood management structures along our part of the stream that would help with both flood management and improve water quality.
“The work was done without fuss or mess, and in the year since installation we have seen periodic minor flooding safely in our meadows, and a wealth of indicators of improved water quality, with abundant insect life, and our first confirmed sighting of otters.
“I do hope that the project will be able to create many more such schemes in our valley, and the stream quality will steadily improve.”
The accolade comes after February 2020 was named as England’s wettest ever and the UK’s fifth wettest winter on record, and all the scientific predictions are that the UK’s winters will get wetter.
You can read the full report from the Stroud News and Journal here.
You can read about the specific work that JPR have worked on within the project here.