A healthy water environment helps to deliver a host of ecosystem services. For example, they can provide drinking water, renewable power, irrigation, transport, support biodiversity, and facilitate commercial and recreational activities.
Presently, 65% of Scotland's water environment has achieved a 'good' or better ecological status. However, many areas in Central Scotland have been heavily modified by human intervention and, as a result, the quality of the water environment is much lower than the Scottish average. An example of this is the Forth sub-basin district, where only 26% of water bodies are classified as being in a 'good' or better condition.
SEPA, in collaboration with Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the CSGN Support Unit, commissioned JBA Consulting to undertake a spatial analysis within the Forth sub-basin district. The aim of this study was to identify sites, which, if restored, would improve the ecological status of the water body.
A Geographic Information System (GIS) methodology, focussing on river basin planning pressures and habitat network locations was implemented. This approach helped to identify 'opportunity areas' where a single intervention project could improve the ecological status of the water body. These opportunity areas were then screened and ranked according to flood risk potential, natural heritage designations and public access.
Following the ranking process, four sites were identified for hydromorphological and ecological surveys. The aim was to identify opportunities to:
The surveys took place in early 2012 and, for each water body, reports were created detailing restoration measures. Amongst the options suggested were the removal of weirs and invasive species, creating, blocking and reconnecting channels, creating buffer strip, improved farm practices, flow restoration, planting, improving riparian management and creating wetlands.
A significant portion of the Forth sub-basin district has been classified as being of a poor ecological status.
The approach used brings together partners with responsibility for water and environmental management to identify priority sites for action.
Priority areas for intervention have been identified and actions to improve the quality of the water environment in these areas have been recommended.
By addressing physical changes to the water environment and improving habitats, this project will contribute toward the achievement river basin targets.
The information provided in the project report facilitates collaborative working and the targeted allocation of resources amongst interested parties.
"A healthy water environment is vital for the environment and our communities. By prioritising and co-ordinating action on sites which deliver on a number of policy objectives including biodiversity, green networks and climate change, we can work more effectively and efficiently; resulting in huge benefits."
David Harley, Water and Land Manager SEPA
This project supports realisation of the CSGN Vision through the delivery of multiple benefits across the five CSGN themes. Although it primarily focuses on river basin planning pressures and integrated habitat networks, it also integrates public access and recreation issues, biodiversity targets, sustainable urban drainage systems and climate change adaptation.
The next stage is to develop proposals and win funding to deliver the on-the-ground improvements identified in the scoping reports. Work will also continue with partners to identify opportunities to take forward and integrate the project with other plans and activities.
The information contained within the reports will be shared with local stakeholders, together with an explanation of how they could be used. It is hoped that this will stimulate interested parties to develop and deliver multiple benefits projects not only within the Forth sub-basin but also other districts within Scotland.
The reports help to present the case for partners to invest limited resources collectively in projects which have the most environmental benefits. In particular, they can support funding applications as the findings broaden the scope of potential funding opportunities, due to the multiple cross-cutting benefits identified.
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