River restoration begins

The first of a series of river restoration works has happened at Stanwick Lakes. Led by River Nene Regional Park and supported by the Environment Agency, contractors removed a ‘plug’ of vegetation and sediment from the mouth of a backwater to re-connect it with the main river channel.

 Before: The backwater was full of weeds, reed and silt, preventing fish from accessing spawning habitat

Before: The backwater was full of weeds, reed and silt, preventing fish from accessing spawning habitat

 After: Although it looks stark immediately after the removal of reeds and weeds, new fish spawning habitats have been created

After: Although it looks stark immediately after the removal of reeds and weeds, new fish spawning habitats have been created

Although the removal of so much vegetation may look destructive, the newly formed reconnected water will provide a non-flowing water habitat. This gives fish a place to shelter during high flow periods and also provides some ideal spawning habitat with weeds and reedbeds at the far end of the backwater. Maintaining fish populations helps to support a number of other species in the river ecosystem. See an aerial image of the restoration site here.

Upstream, a similar backwater (not connected to the river channel at both ends) has been retained without ‘de-plugging’ to preserve its important habitat for aquatic birds, invertebrates and amphibians. 

 The upstream (more southerly) backwater remains in this condition to provide habitat for birds and invertebrates

The upstream (more southerly) backwater remains in this condition to provide habitat for birds and invertebrates

 With more reeds and other vegetation, the upstream backwater provides a different habitat to the downstream site

With more reeds and other vegetation, the upstream backwater provides a different habitat to the downstream site

The decision of which area to restore and which to leave was based on how established each habitat was. The downstream backwater had more open water and fewer reeds and weeds to be cleared than the upstream area, which gives a bigger reedy area for sheltering birds.

The restored habitat will now be monitored so that the impact of the restoration can be measured.