The primary mission of the Centre for River Ecosystem Science (CRESS:
is to build and translate scientific evidence into advice to end-users and
policy makers in river management, both nationally and internationally.
Site-based advice, design and monitoring have been provided to 55
projects, including award-winning river engineering schemes.
Independently, our research in community ecology, fluvial geomorphology
and agricultural pollutants has supported an outstanding contribution to
the UKs response to the key EU Environmental Directives — Water Framework,
Flooding, Species & Habitats and Bathing Waters. We have developed the
official tools that are now used to determine the status of freshwaters
and structure catchment management plans, and trained others in their use,
have pioneered risk assessments and modelling of nutrient, pathogen or
carbon losses, publicised their effects, scoped mitigation options though
engaging with end-users, and steered the pan-European comparison of
bio-assessment methods that now underpins common water policy.
New approaches to analysing and modelling water systems, developed at
Cardiff, have driven national policy changes to improve the proportion of
fully functioning water ecosystems in the UK. UK Government, Welsh
Government and a range of NGOs have adopted these new approaches, which
replace traditional descriptive methods with experimental, analytical and
modeling techniques for understanding water ecosystems.
These approaches have been used to develop the water-related component of
the National Ecosystem Assessment. This document has directly impacted on
UK river management policy, forming the basis of two Defra White papers,
`Natural Choice' and `Water for Life', underpinning Welsh Government's
Natural Environment Framework and informing the work of a range of NGOs.
Fluvial geomorphology research at Loughborough University has impacted on
the approaches and procedures of practitioners responsible for
characterising and managing river-bed sediments. Dr Graham's research has
underpinned the development to commercialisation of an automated method
for measuring river-bed sediment size. The associated cost-saving benefits
have had an international reach into field practice, demonstrated by
non-academic software sales across Europe, North America and Australasia.
Professor Rice's research has underpinned strategies focused on managing
river sedimentation problems, as well as the design of new tools and
adoption of new approaches, especially in the USA, aimed at better
managing fish populations.
This case study concerns the impact of interdisciplinary research on
policies and practices to support river restoration and the aims of the
European Water Framework Directive (WFD), which requires member states to
bring riverine hydromorphology and ecology to 'good' status by 2015,
measured against a reference condition. The research achieved impact
through an evolving process of co-production, in that academics engaged
with user communities from the outset. Richards, Hughes and Horn
(Department of Geography, University of Cambridge) worked closely with
users to design a knowledge transfer guidebook to communicate restoration
science to users.
This was distributed amongst Environment Agency (EA) staff to aid the
planning and implementation of restoration projects. Further impacts
included promoting floodplain restoration for flood risk management (Richards,
as a member of an EA Regional Flood and Coastal Commitee); a rapid
assessment method for river quality (Richards and Horn)
that forms the basis of cross-boundary WFD compliance practices across the
whole of Ireland; and knowledge transfer of EU WFD ecological assessment
practices to China (Richards).
Research at Loughborough University (LU) from 2000-2013 by Dr Wood and
Professor Wilby has enabled Natural England, the Environment Agency of
England and Wales, and the Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland, to
implement European Directives (Water Framework, Habitats, and
Groundwater). Benefits were accrued from the development of monitoring
techniques and integrated modelling to understand long-term drivers of
ecological status in river systems. This research has been translated into
field standards and planning guidelines within the UK water sector.
Moreover, this work helped other organisations such as World Wildlife Fund
(WWF-UK) to raise public awareness of the consequences of household water
use on freshwater environments.
Good quality water is essential for life on earth. The `Centre for Intelligent Environmental Systems'
(CIES) has developed computer-based solutions for the assessment of river water quality by
environmental agencies, working to improve the quality. CIES research has informed discussions
and decisions of the UK Technical Advisory Group for the Water Framework Directive (UKTAG
WFD). UKTAG WFD have selected the WHPT (Walley, Hawkes, Paisley & Trigg) method, for
assessing river water quality throughout the UK, in the context of river management to meet the
targets set in the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC from the European Union),
which the UK government signed up to in 2000 (Beneficiaries: UKTAG WFD; Environment
agencies; The public). Indirect impacts can also be attributed to CIES research, as it enables
improvements of river quality, which triggers positive impacts on the natural environment, public
health and quality of life (Beneficiaries: The public). CIES software has also been released to
environment agency biologists as second opinion tools, thereby resulting in improved delivery of
the public service provided by these biologists, when they use the software (Beneficiaries:
Environment agencies; Environment agency biologists; The public).
The results of commissioned research by Aberystwyth University (AU) have
shaped decision-making that led to the relocation of refugee Roma,
Ashkali and Egyptian (RAE) communities in Mitrovica, northern Kosovo. In
2009/2010 AU research unequivocally identified the source of elevated lead
(Pb) levels in soils that had been blamed for high infant and adult
mortality rates in RAE refugee camps, and established that Roma Mahalla
had sufficiently low soil Pb levels to permit the construction of a
purpose-built housing development for the RAE communities. Following the
relocation of the RAE families to Roma Mahalla in 2010/2011 there has been
a significant reduction in blood Pb levels in children with no reported
deaths attributable to Pb poisoning. This AU research project has had a
demonstrable positive impact on life quality and human health of the
resettled RAE communities living in Mitrovica.
Quaternary Science research undertaken at Royal Holloway examined the
environmental archives provided by ancient rivers, now preserved in part
as extensive sand and gravel deposits. In so doing, the research
identified the former courses of major Pleistocene river systems in
England, in particular the now-extinct Bytham river, the largest in
England until its obliteration by the ice sheets of the Anglian glaciation
c. 450,000 years ago. The research concerned the geographical extent and
quality of these Pleistocene river deposits, as well as their
palaeo-environmental context, age and archaeology. The interlinked impacts
of the research have been: a) economic, via the identification of
resources of economic value to the aggregates industry; and b) cultural,
via enhancing heritage preservation in England's sand and gravel quarries.
Firstly, then, the research has a direct economic benefit for the UK
aggregates industry, which has used the results on Bytham river deposits
to predict the location and viability of aggregates resources. This has
resulted in new quarries, and in the extension of existing quarries, with
a value of aggregate production circa £50m in the assessment period. These
impacts were facilitated in part by the Department's close working
relationships with a number of quarrying companies. A wider economic
impact on the aggregates industry was also delivered through significant
changes to the British Geological Survey maps that form an important basis
for quarry development.
A second impact of the research has been the enhancing of heritage
preservation. The Department's relationship with the quarrying industry
has had a direct effect on the archaeological and geodiversity policy that
regulates its economic activity. Royal Holloway took a leading role in the
English Heritage supported National Ice Age Network (NIAN) which engaged
the aggregate industry, quarry workers and members of the public in the
task of recognising, recording and preserving Pleistocene remains in
England's sand and gravel quarries. During the assessment period, NIAN,
expert advice from Royal Holloway staff and other dissemination of
research has shaped ongoing heritage policy in relation to quarrying and
Pleistocene and Palaeolithic remains.
Angela Gurnell's research on the geomorphology, hydrology and plant
ecology of urban water courses has led to the development of important new
tools for the biophysical assessment and improved management of urban
rivers. Known as the Urban River Survey (URS), these tools are accessed by
the Environment Agency and River Trusts across London, and their
application is supported with workshops and guidance provided by Gurnell
and her team. The URS has been used to deliver morphological quality
indicators for rivers across London; to appraise river restoration
schemes; to develop catchment management plans; and to assess long-term
changes in rivers. It is currently being developed to quantify and set
targets for river improvement schemes in relation to their impact on river
ecosystem services. Gurnell's work has made a distinct contribution to
urban river improvements in Britain and Europe, particularly through her
leadership in developing a European framework for assessing
University of Glasgow expertise in coastal erosion has directly
influenced biodiversity policy at local, national and international
levels, delivered flood mitigation initiatives in partnership with public
agencies in Scotland, and mobilised public support for environmental
safeguards to preserve our natural heritage. Dr Jim Hansom has been
instrumental in shaping UK environmental strategy to include geodiversity.
In Scotland, he has worked with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
on flood assessments and the identification of Sites of Special Scientific
Interest, helped to establish a charity mobilising community volunteers to
monitor Scotland's coastline, and assisted Oxfam to allocate erosion
prevention grants to local communities. Hansom's expertise has fed into
the polemic protest film You've Been Trumped and a BBC Panorama
special, bringing coastal geodiversity and biodiversity issues sharply
into focus on a very public stage.