News & Events

Wicker Riverside laid bare Posted: 22/03/2010

Tree being dragged out of the river at Wicker Riverside

At the heart of Sheffield, the Don has gone through a dramatic transformation. Where the River Don reaches its most southern point on its journey to the North Sea, swinging from a SW direction to a NE one, the river touches the historic centre of Sheffield. As is the case for much of the Don, the river banks and gravel shoals had been left to develop typical riverside vegetation, with tall crack willows and luxuriant undergrowth. However, in response to the severe floods of 2007, the Environment Agency has taken action to cut down riparian trees, clear vegetation and dig out gravel shoals in the river channel, turning the green river corridor brown. The logic behind this intervention is that by removing vegetation from the channel, it will allow water to flow through the river system more quickly, and stop large woody debris blocking bridges during high flow, thereby reducing the likelihood of flooding. Response from local people has been mixed. Some welcome the measures if they will protect against further flooding. Others worry about the loss of habitat for nesting birds and spawning fish, and some of the most diverse plant communities in the city. Such dilemmas face those managing rivers in cities across the world. In the URSULA project, we are looking at ways of decision making that finds the best compromise or even win-wins that satisfy all interested parties.

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