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LOWLAND CATCHMENT RESEARCH PROGRAMME

Posted 30 January 2004

ON 14TH NOVEMBER, Harper Adams hosted a stakeholder meeting on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council’s ‘Lowland Catchment Research (LOCAR) Programme’. LOCAR is a £10 million research programme designed to improve our understanding of water movements (particularly interactions between groundwater and surface water), water quality and sediment transfers by rivers, and river ecology within three groundwater-fed river systems. The areas of study are the chalk-based River Frome/Piddle and River Pang/Lambourne systems and the sandstone-based River Tern. The LOCAR programme has funded installation of scientific infrastructure within these three systems to provide a state-of-the-art environment for scientific research. In addition, a range of research projects have been funded, involving universities and environmental organisations from all over the UK to examine specific hydraulic, chemical, geological and ecological interactions. Harper Adams has been selected as the technical base for research in the River Tern, where five research projects are currently underway. Results from the project will be pulled together and used to inform and improve our knowledge and produce new strategies for the continued human utilisation and ecological protection of groundwater resources, feeding vital information into the policy development required under the European Water Framework Directive.

The speakers included Professor Ian Douglas (University of Manchester), Professor Andy Cobb (Harper Adams), Professor Angela Gurnell (King’s College London), Professor Geoff Petts (University of Birmingham) and Dr Steve Fletcher (Environment Agency). The aims, objectives and research subjects of the project were introduced to the audience, which included members of the public, staff from Harper Adams, representatives from many organisations including ADAS, DEFRA, Environment Agency, Local Government, Industry and Wildlife Agencies, the NFU, National Trust, Severn Trent Water and representatives from Institutions of Higher Education. Afterwards, the open question and discussion session continued over lunch.

One of the LOCAR projects, studying the importance of bank and channel vegetation for river flow patterns and for the erosion and deposition of sediment and seeds, is based at Harper Adams. Seed bank and river-deposited materials are being examined, along with detailed surveys of riparian vegetation, both along the river banks and submerged in the river channel. Germination trials are underway, using the greenhouse facilities at Harper Adams, which will help further our understanding of how river flows and flow regulation affect the biodiversity and development of river-based vegetation communities. This research is being carried out by Professor Angela Gurnell (King’s College London) and Dr Joanne Goodson (also King’s College London, but based at Harper Adams) and involves researchers from Nottingham and Sheffield Universities, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Harper Adams. Some of the plants from the trials were recently displayed at the British Crop Protection Conference as part of the Harper Adams promotional stand. It is hoped that the results will be presented and published at the forthcoming 5th International Symposium on Ecohydraulics in Madrid, September 2004.

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