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Catchment Science 2011 Presentations

The highly successful 2011 Catchment Science meeting held at The Mansion House, Dublin, jointly hosted by Irish Agricultural Catchments Programme (Teagasc/DAFF) and the UK Demonstration Test Catchments Projects (Defra/EA) was well supported, with over 200 delegates. A selection of the posters and powerpoint slides presented by members of the EdenDTC team can be accessed by clicking on the individual presentation titles below:

The River EdenDTC Project: A National Demonstration Test Catchment

C.McW.H.Benskin, G.J. Owen, M.T.Perks

The Defra-funded EdenDTC project, led by Lancaster University, is engaged in a five-year environmental scheme, aiming to reduce agricultural diffuse pollution. The project will study multiple diffuse pollutants, in the context of impacts and effects on both ecosystems and sustainable production. The £6.5 million scheme encompasses two other river demonstration test catchments, the Avon (Hampshire) and the Wensum (Norfolk). Catchments were selected due to their variable geographical, geological, climatic and land use features.

Essential to the study is the involvement of farmers and landowners, with the aim of bringing together researchers, policy-makers, farmers, water companies and NGOs to develop a common approach to tackling diffuse water pollution. Combinations of novel and existing diffuse pollution mitigation measures will be tested, by monitoring their effect on water quality and biodiversity, whilst maintaining productive and sustainable farm businesses.

This poster presents the background and progress of the EdenDTC to date, including installation of instrumentation, sampling regimes, mitigation measures and current data.

The EdenDTC and Instrumentation

G.J. Owen, C.McW.H.Benskin, M.T.Perks

Diffuse pollution from agricultural poses a real threat to the health of the British river networks through eutrophication and soil erosion. Defra envisage that the Water Framework Directive (WFD) objectives will be met in England through exiting schemes and initiatives, particularly through Cross compliance, the England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative (ECSFDI) and the Agri-environment schemes.

The Demonstration Test Catchment (DTC) project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of potential mitigation measures on diffuse pollution from agriculture areas at multiple scales. The project is jointly funded by Defra, the Environment Agency and the Welsh Assembly Government. There are three DTC’s across the country; the Eden in Cumbria, the Wensum in Norfolk and Avon in Hampshire.

The approach taken by the Eden DTC has been to establish three 10km2 study catchments, chosen to reflect the different farming practises and geologies observed across the Eden. Within each of the 10km2 focus catchments, two sub-catchments have been chosen; one control and one mitigated in which a number of existing and novel mitigation measures will be tested.

In order to achieve this, the project has purchased state of the art hydrometeorlogical logging systems. The outlets of the 10km2 study catchments have a ‘high-tech’ multi-parameter station that will provide data for total P, soluble reactive P, nitrate, ammonium, temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, pH and flow. At the 2-5km2 scale are 10 sub-stations which provide a record of turbidity and water level. All are continuously sampling at a 15 minute and are telemetered. The goal is to give an abundance of high quality, multi-scale continuous data provided in real time. Additional storm sampling will be done at all stations using ISCO automatic water samplers.

This project has adopted GPRS and meteor burst technologies as the means for telemetry. This allows for real time connection to the instruments and provides the capability for setting alarms on sensors. GPRS cameras at the catchment outlets will provide qualitative information on flow dynamics. A demonstration of the technology and data streams will be displayed alongside this poster.

The project aims to have a significant stakeholder involvement taking a bottom up approach, adopting many the principles of the Big Society. A wealth of information at a number of different scales will be gathered that will help improve the effectiveness/efficiency of schemes such as the ECSFDI. It is also hoped that many of the mitigation features will be multipurpose, having positive effects on flooding, carbon sequestration, habitat creation and biodiversity.

Public Engagement in the EdenDTC

C.McW.H.Benskin

These slides are extracts from a paper titled “The Demonstration Test Catchments Project – An Overview”. These few slides highlight the ways in which the DTC project will engage with the public.

Understanding nutrient connectivity at the landscape scale: The use of the SCIMAP approach in the UK and Ireland

S.M. Reaney, D.G. Milledge, S.N. Lane, A.L. Heathwaite, S. Mechan, A. Melland & P. Jordan

Many approaches to understanding diffuse pollution risk at the landscape scale have focused on its ‘sources’ and ‘mobilisation’ with a basic representation of the connectivity effects between the landscape and the receiving waters. Connectivity will determine whether source areas become critical source areas and create problems in the receiving waters. It is the landscape position of a source, both in terms of its upslope contributing area and its downslope flow path, that determine the likelihood of a connection being made to the receiving waters. SCIMAP, developed at Durham and Lancaster Universities with the Environment Agency, has taken a connectivity driven approach, set within a risk based framework.

The SCIMAP approach to diffuse pollution risk mapping has been applied by: the Environment Agency under the Catchment Sensitive Farming program; the Teagasc ‘Agricultural Catchments’ program; the Defra funded ‘River Eden Demonstration Test Catchment’; and various river and wildlife trusts in the UK. This poster shows an overview of the SCIMAP approach and the results from both Irish and UK projects.

Appraisal of a cheap methodology for determining spatial variability of suspended sediment flux in small rivers

M.T.Perks, C.McW.H.Benskin, G.J. Owen

Quantifying patterns of fine suspended sediment transfer in UK rivers is of vital importance. In many catchments of the UK there is still a lack of catchment-wide understanding of both the spatial patterns and temporal variation in fine sediment delivery. We are now able to accurately quantify the instantaneous suspended sediment (SS) concentrations inrivers through well developed technologies (e.g. Nephelometry). However, their application is often expensive, leading to the adoption of few measurement points (often at catchment outlets).

In order to characterise the spatial variability throughout a catchment, a cheaper alternative would often be beneficial. This may be possible through the use of Time Integrated Mass-flux samplers (TIMs) as a means of estimating the relative flux of fine suspended sediment. Results of a catchment experiment seeking to assess the potential of this approach are presented.

Nutrient and sediment regimes in the River Eden and options for management
Barber, N., Quinn, P, Bathurst, J., Jonczyk, J.

A rural catchment in the UK is being monitored in a multi-scaled, nested experiment to identify the parts of the landscape that contribute Diffuse Water Pollution from Agriculture (DWPA) by measuring phosphorus (P), nitrate (N) and suspended sediment (SS) losses across the river network. Results have been analysed spatially and temporally, with a focus on storm events and high flows, and it is conceptualised that the majority of polluted runoff is delivered via a relatively low number of diffuse flow pathways. It is therefore hypothesised that by targeting these distributed point sources and ‘engineering’ catchments, it is possible to mitigate the impacts of DWPA cost effectively without compromising agricultural productivity.

Runoff Attenuation Features (RAFs) are examples of soft engineering measures, including small ponds, wetlands, sediment traps, filters, which are designed to intercept polluted flow pathways in order to slow, store and filter the runoff. A number of RAFs have been designed and constructed and their ability to trap SS and remove and recover P and N has been quantified. The interventions have demonstrated the ability to substantially reduce certain pollutant concentrations (up to 90% SS and 65% total P), particularly during storm events, as well as attenuating flood flows and providing wider ecosystem services. RAFs function most effectively when applied to farm ditches and small streams, relatively close to pollution sources, and we propose that this is the most cost effective mitigation methodology. Our work has shown, however, that P-rich fine sediment (

Any catchment modifications must integrate with everyday farming practises as well as protect, or even enhance, the freshwater environment; thus satisfying the needs of the Water Framework Directive. The impacts of climate change and the potential need to increase food production in the UK could exacerbate freshwater pollution thus enhancing the need to develop an appropriate DWPA mitigation strategy.

Phytobenthos as a Measure of Upland Stream Productivity in the River Eden Demonstration Test Catchment

Snell, M., Barker, P., Surridge, B., Large, A

The ecology of headwater streams is driven largely by phytobenthoscommunities that provide important terrestrial-aquatic linkages within catchments. Phytobenthiccommunities can be employed to assess community response to productivity changes due to their sensitivity to physicochemical variables. However, structural attributes are subject to spatial and temporal variability, thus limiting their employment in biomonitoring assessments. This study aims to investigate high resolution spatial-temporal patterns in benthic diatom assemblages, biofilmbiomass, and multiple system pressures.

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About the Author: Matt Perks works as a Field Technician based at Durham University. Within the EdenDTC project Matt is mainly responsible for the installation and maintenance of field equipment.

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