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Sharing the science – why understanding hydrology is critical to river restoration

Last Thursday Norfolk Rivers Trust invited several of our friends and partners to a knowledge-sharing day at which Professor Richard Hey discussed the way natural rivers function, and the ways in which human interventions have succeeded or failed to manage rivers.  Richard studied and taught hydrology and river engineering for many years at UEA and the University of Birmingham, and now runs his own consultancy, often advising Norfolk Rivers Trust on our river restoration schemes.  The talk focussed on how projects which understand river function and work with rivers rather than against them have been the most successful .

This is particularly relevant in light of this winter’s many many floods and the call for more intensive river management, but also highly relevant to the ecological restoration and conservation work undertaken by the Rivers Trusts and Environment Agency.  Schemes to impose habitat characteristics on rivers (for example gravel riffles) fail where they are used inappropriately, whereas schemes which allow a river to function and evolve (for example embankment removal and the use of large woody debris) offer a greater chance of success.  Following the talk, Richard took the group to look at one his previous projects on the River Glaven where re-instating meanders and allowing the river to spill onto its floodplain are having clear ecological benefits.

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