Our methods

This catchment-scale research project is based on a ‘Before-After-Control-Impact’ (BACI) design consisting of two experimental catchments and one control catchment c5 km2 each in the East Midlands. Catchments include:

  1. The Barkby brook, which drains in to the river Wreak, a tributary of the river Soar, and acts as the control allowing background changes in the landscape to be controlled for in the experiment.
  2. The Eye brook, which drains towards the River Welland, and will form the experimental catchment in which  water protection measures and hydrological measures are implemented.
  3. The  Stonton brook, which also drains towards the River Welland,  and will form the experimental catchment in which water protection measures, hydrological measures and additional physical habitat enhancements are all implemented, allowing the combined effect of both types of measures to be assessed.

Planning began in 2006, with baseline establishment starting in 2010 when the first biological catchment surveys where undertaken. Intensive water quality and hydrological monitoring started at the beginning of 2012 and continues. Installation of mitigation measures, which has now been completed, began in the second half of 2012 and monitoring prior to this allowed the completion of the critical baseline period.

The effectiveness of mitigation measures will be assessed and evaluated in a monitoring programme which includes the following main components:

  • Water Quality – including phosphorus, nitrate and sediments for continuous monitoring at both catchment outfalls and catchment wide distribution
  • Pesticides – including background loading of metaldehyde and pyrethroids, and the impact on biological ecosystem services such as that contributed by leaf litter and diatom processing
  • Ecological Monitoring – based on annual surveys within Water Framework Directive elements including macrophytes, diatoms, fish and aquatic invertebrates
  • Aquatic biodiversity – catchment-wide assessment of macrophytes and invertebrates from streams, ponds and ditches
  • Catchment hydrology – assessing in stream water flow and its importance at the catchment scale
  • Carbon budget – the catchment-wide assessment of the contribution of aquatic habitats to atmospheric and terrestrial CO2

Sampling methods:

  • Water Quality – nitrate, total phosphorus, pH, conductivity will be collected from all the stratified random sample of freshwater habitats across all landscapes every year. An intensive monitoring system continues to operate gathering information on nitrate, total phosphorus and suspended sediment every eight hours from the furthermost downstream site in each catchment.
  • Pesticides – annual catchment monitoring will include that of the oil seed rape pesticides, carbetamide and propyzamide, and also that of metaldehyde
  • Ecological Monitoring – each year twenty stream locations per catchment will be sampled for macrophyte diversity using river habitat and macrophyte surveys. The River Invertebrate Prediction and Classification System (RIVPACS) will also be used to determine the health of these streams by assessing macroinvertebrate diversity. Fish ecology will be assessed using electro-fishing techniques summarising fish species present and abundance. An additional assessment using the Diatoms for Assessing River Ecological Status (DARES) method will classify streams according to diatom biodiversity.
  • Aquatic biodiversity – from the stratified random sample of freshwater habitats across all landscapes within catchments macrophyte, macroinvertebrate and diatom diversity will be assessed every year. A Predictive System for Multimetrics (PSYM) will determine biological quality in ponds. Comparisons between biological components in differing aquatic systems and those that are the same will be made.
  • Catchment hydrology – long term, continuous monitoring of velocity, water depth and flow will be undertaken using doppler shift system technology at sites positioned furthermost downstream in each catchment
  • Carbon budget – the concentration and flux of methane and carbon dioxide compounds will be monitored from the stratified random sample of freshwater habitats across all landscapes within catchments using in-situ and laboratory techniques

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Examples of intensive water quality monitoring undertaken in the main brooks