10. Above and beyond existing data

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It has been highlighted in this document that there are many well-established monitoring protocols and schemes already in place, but also that these have specific drivers which do not necessarily relate directly to river restoration. More importantly, data collection sites rarely coincide with specific river restoration project reaches. In the language of the Water Framework Directive, this is termed „surveillance‟ monitoring, as distinct from the more „investigative‟ and „operational‟ monitoring required for projects. However, thinking more creatively about possible data sources can very often be extremely valuable, and this section highlights what is already available from existing schemes, as well as how engaging a cross-section of society can be of mutual benefit.

10.1 Existing data resources and monitoring schemes

Figure 10.1: An example of LiDAR data, showing fine details of a derelict water meadow system on the River Nar SSSI in Norfolk (© Environment Agency copyright 2010 and the River Restoration Centre).

The very first port of call for many people looking for a general overview of a site is Google Earth. This and other open access resources (such as are available online from the Ordnance Survey) may be invaluable for the most basic level of investigation. Indeed, over the long term, Google Earth may be useful for tracking changes with its historic imagery function. At a coarser spatial resolution but with images captured more frequently, LANDSAT images (via the US Geological Survey) may be of some use on much larger rivers. All these resources are subject to specific use license terms, however, and one should be careful not to breach these.

A second type of existing dataset may be those collected by large agencies for the purposes of large technical projects. Typically we are talking about remote sensing and aerial surveys, and most frequently Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR – Figure 10.1), which produces a high resolution elevation map of a flown site. Though such data often represents only a snapshot of a very defined area at a single point in time, this can be invaluable for reference in some cases. LiDAR data may be available from the EA, who have their own specialist remote sensing business unit – Geomatics Group.

Further to the above examples, there are on-going surveillance monitoring campaigns run by the EA and other groups for various purposes. It is extremely important that these data sets and collection are recognised since they may, in some cases, be extremely useful and reduce the need for some monitoring or at least help focus on the areas that need complimentary monitoring. In essence, always ensure you are aware of existing data collection programmes when developing your monitoring strategy. Appendix 14 outlines and provides links to data sets, and examples of many of the existing monitoring methods are found in Appendices 8-13. Table 10.1 provides a list of some of the EA databases and the information they hold; the level of detail (both spatially and temporally varies significantly between these datasets. That said, more river and floodplain data has been collected continuously in England and Wales than in Northern Ireland, or Scotland, where data is sparse and primarily the domain of academic institutions. More details of additional data sets can be found in Bellamy and Rivas-Casado (2009), especially Section 2.

Table 10.1: EA databases (Bellamy and Rivas-Casado (2009)

10.2 Who should be involved in monitoring and why

A key aspect of this document is to enable a wider audience to be involved with river and floodplain monitoring. With full, open and clear engagement of volunteers and other, wider interest groups in monitoring of river restoration schemes, there are potential cost savings for the practitioner and tangible benefits for those brought in from outside the project. Additionally, the passion and local knowledge of such groups can dramatically increase the chances of a successful scheme. Note that there is likely to be an even greater need for simple, robust monitoring design and fool-proof protocol definition when working in partnership with more people.

10.2.1 Types of groups to approach

The following groups may be receptive to being approached to collect monitoring data. Note that there is a need for these organizations to be able to commit to involvement over most, if not all of the monitoring period:

  • Angling clubs
  • Educational institutions
    • Local schools
    • Universities and research institutions (likely also to be interested in monitoring planning and development)
  • Local conservation volunteer groups
  • Rivers Trusts
  • Wildlife Trusts

10.2.2 Benefits of engaging a wider section of society

A summary of the benefits to both the practitioner and the outside parties involved is presented below:

Benefits to practitioners

  • Cost savings – if carefully planned
  • Local knowledge
  • Increased advocacy and public interest in the local and global river restoration cause
  • Passion and enthusiasm
  • Filled knowledge gaps

Benefits to wider stakeholders:

  • Improved community cohesion
  • Knowledge, education and training
  • Opportunities to visit the site and work in the fresh air
  • Case studies for researchers
  • Filled knowledge gaps