NEW – River Habitat Survey Toolbox 32 and 64 bit software

We have just released new versions of the River Habitat Survey Toolbox software to help practitioners with habitat assessment for the Water Framework Directive, Planning Applications, River Restoration and more.  The software is on a free trial for 30 days and it is available for 32 and 64 bit version of Windows with networking facility.

RHS toolbox data input form

The River Habitat Survey (RHS) Toolbox software was developed to enable RHS surveyors to prepare for RHS surveys, input and analyse data. The RHS Toolbox will quality control data, identify potential errors, calculate indices and perform contextual analysis using the RHS baseline survey sites. Using this interface, users will be able to print RHS forms and perform additional analyses.

Updated versions of the RHS toolbox were produced for 32 and 64 bit versions of Access and the user data file can now shared on a network drive to enable multi-user access (beta version). Network sharing is only available with a site licence.

The RHS Toolbox content will develop over time and will provide full access to additional indices, 25000 sites on the RHS database, sharing of data between users, ToolHab functionality, in-built GIS, an Android app to input data in the field and much more. The RHS Toolbox has been applied to a series of commercial and non-commercial applications such as Water Framework Directive Assessment, planning application, habitat assessment etc (link to application page)

The RHS toolbox enables to:

New features:

  • RHS Toolbox compatible versions for 32 and 64 bit versions of Office.
  • The user data file can now be shared on a network drive to enable multiple users within an organisation to share data (only available with a site licence).
  • Data and photo import from the Android RHS Mobile application.
  • Calculation of a new Riparian Quality Index to assess the naturalness, complexity and continuity of the riparian zone
  • Ability to export data from sites of similar types selected as part of the context analysis to Excel.
  • Ability to export RHS data to multiple formats: Excel, pdf, html

Instructions to download and install the RHS Toolbox:
1- Download the zip file for the relevant version of the RHS Toolbox: 

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2- Create a RHS folder somewhere on your computer (e.g. C drive) and extract the content of the zip file into that folder.
3- If you do not have Access 2010 or later already installed on your PC, you can download and install the free Access 2016 runtime here
4- Double-click the file RHSDataInput.accdr.

The RHS Toolbox development requires investment in time and resources so it is unfortunately not possible to deliver it free of charge. You have access to a trial version for 30 days after which you will have to register and purchase a license. During the trial period, every time you log in, you will be asked whether you wish to purchase a license and register. Information on pricing can be found here

Potential issues: the RHS Toolbox was tested on UK (English) Windows Operating Systems. Due to different ways of representing decimal points, some of its functionality may not work on French and other Operating Systems that use commas (,) instead of points (.) to represent the decimal fraction of real numbers. Please let us know if you come across such problems.

Using River Habitat Survey in the Geography Curriculum at the University of Worcester

by Professor Ian Maddock, University of Worcester, January 2020

Third year undergraduate students at the University of Worcester can take an optional module in River Conservation and Management as part of their Geography or Physical Geography degrees. We offer a practical-based degree programme with a strong emphasis on fieldwork and in this module, the practical work is focused around the use of RHS. The first half of the module is largely classroom-based, focusing on new approaches to environmentally-sensitive river management, including river restoration, natural flood management and the application of environmental flows.  Guest speakers from the EA, wildlife trusts, rivers trusts, local authorities and environmental consultancies provide an overview of some of the organisations involved with these topics and give students insights into potential careers relevant to their interests.

copyright Ian Maddock

RHS provides the focus for the 2nd half of the module. Students are familiarised with the field survey methods and features that are assessed in the classroom and then get to trial the software in a PC room with dummy data sets. This allows them to get used to data input and score calculation and explore the impact of altering input fields and assessing the effect on the metrics calculated. They get a feel for what influences the Habitat Quality Assessment (HQA) and the Habitat Modification Score (HMS) and their sensitivity to data input.

This is followed by three weeks of fieldwork using RHS. The first one involves a ‘practice’ survey of a local stream and then straight back into the computer room for data input and metric calculations. Students work in small groups (2s and 3s) and all assess the same reach. Comparing scores between groups and identifying which features were scored differently between them enables a discussion on observer variability and the need for training to help standardise approaches and optimise data quality. In the following two weeks students assess two contrasting sites. One is a largely natural gravel-bed stream in a local nature reserve, with minimal direct human impact and high habitat quality. The second is a contrasting, heavily-modified urban stream dominated by channelisation including weirs, bank and bed reinforcements and channel realignment. For their assignment, students are required to produce a mock consultancy report and use the RHS outputs to 1) assess the current habitat quality and habitat modification, and 2) make recommendations for the implementation of suitable river restoration techniques. The important thing with the latter is they use the breakdown of the HQA and HMS metrics to underpin their recommendations, explicitly acknowledging the output of the RHS survey results to justify the techniques proposed.

RHS provides an ideal field technique for this type of work for many reasons. Students can become proficient in its use relatively quickly, survey times are sufficiently short to enable them to conduct a survey in a 3-4 hour timetable slot, it promotes a discussion about how to identify river habitat features, what features are deemed ecologically relevant and how the differing importance of features is acknowledged by the differential weighting of them towards the calculated metrics, and how habitats have been impacted in the past or can be restored. It also enables a more general discussion on the use of rapid visual assessment methods as a survey protocol compared to more detailed but time consuming quantitative techniques. We plan to trial the new mobile app this forthcoming year which should provide a more convenient way of recording data in the field and uploading it to the PC-based software.

Professor Ian Maddock

Professor of River Science

University of Worcester

RRC Senior River Restoration Adviser Job Vacancy

the River Restoration Centre

You want to make a real difference in the field of river restoration and habitat enhancement, working in the UK and Ireland at the interface between practice, science and policy?

The River Restoration Centre (RRC) is seeking a Senior River Restoration Adviser to provide expert advice and guidance, delivery of assessment, planning and scoping projects, the design and delivery of training courses and the coordination of an international conference on river restoration science.
Closing date for receipt of applications is 5th January 2020

For more information, go to the Cranfield University website : https://www.therrc.co.uk/jobs/senior-river-restoration-adviser

River Habitat Survey App

RRC in collaboration with the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, have been working to create a new, free application to record River Habitat Survey (RHS) sites in the field, using your smartphone. It works on Android phones and tablets, and the simple interface makes it easy to input data similar to how you would have originally completed the paper form. Just work your way through the sections on the App, filling in information at each Spot Check, recording the number of riffles, pools and bars, before carrying out the Sweep Up assessment of the overall reach. The user can also take photographs to be added to the survey, and the data can be exported to the RHS Toolbox and RAPID2 software.

Download the RHS Mobile Android App (3.3 MB) : 

RHS App interface

RHS Natural Resources Wales analysis

Image result for nrw logoImage result for bournemouth universityImage result for river restoration centre

Natural Resources Wales, working with the River Restoration Centre and Bournemouth University, have recently published analysis of River Habitat Survey data from the repeat baseline survey in 2007-9 for six areas across Wales, allowing comparisons to be drawn in terms of levels of modifications and habitat quality. The analyses and indices from this report will be invaluable for Area Based Statements as well as providing evidence for our management and prioritisation of rivers. River restoration is a key priority for NRW and this report suggests a way forward for the assessment of restoration projects as well as modificaitions such as hydropower proposals.

Sue Hearn, Rivers Ecologist, Natural Resources Wales

View the report here

River Restoration Centre 19th Annual Network Conference 2018

Each year the River Restoration Centre (RRC) holds an Annual Network Conference that brings together professionals from all areas of river restoration including contractors, engineers, consultants, academics, and representatives from trusts, local organisations, and goverment agencies. The event is run over two days and includes around 50 speakers, workshop sessions and many other opportunities to network and make new contacts. Speakers present interesting, engaging presentations on their research or recent projects on current, hot topics.

For more information click here.

Books on rivers and river management

Rivers by Nigel Holmes and Paul Raven
Rivers_book_coverAn attractive new book by Nigel Holmes and Paul Raven should be a ‘must-read’ item for those with a professional, academic or general interest in rivers. Entitled simply ‘Rivers’ it is number 3 in the British Wildlife Collection series, and has 432 pages packed with more than 300 colour photographs, plus charts, graphs and other images. The sub-tilted theme is ‘a natural and not-so-natural history’ and the book describes how British rivers and associated plants, invertebrates, fish, birds and mammals have been changed by Nature and mankind since the last ice age.

It describes how and why these changes have occurred and explains how subtle variations in climate, geology and human history in different parts of Britain, have made each river unique. Three rivers, the Hampshire Meon, Welsh/Cheshire Dee and Endrick in Scotland are used to demonstrate how in more detail. The overall message is that understanding how rivers behave is crucial if they are to be properly managed and conserved for the benefit of people and wildlife into the future.
Copies can be ordered from British Wildlife Publishing (£30, free P&P within the UK) – details can be found here – and orders for signed copies taken by phoning 01865 811316.

Decision Support Systems: factors affecting their design and implementation within organisations. Lessons from two case studies by Marc Naura

DSS_book_Cover

How do we ensure that scientific tools, techniques and outputs (e.g. models, software, analytical techniques) are used in the ‘applied’ world’ of industry and government? In this research, we take the example of a group of software called Decision Support Systems (DSS) to discuss, with the help of literature reviews and 2 case studies, the factors affecting their implementation success within organisations. We particularly concentrate on the study of their interaction with organisational culture and the ‘frictions’ that assumptions taken in their design may generate with existing work practice and organisational beliefs. We further propose a methodology for developing models and tools that accounts for organisational and cultural factors, and demonstrate its application on a case study in a major public environmental organisation in the United Kingdom.

The book takes, as an example, the development of ToolHab, a Decision Support System for managing river habitats within the Environment Agency, England and Wales. ToolHab was originally designed for prioritising sites for habitat enhancement work for fish and it is now being tested for other purposes, such as the delivery of a environmental targets under the EU Water Framework Directive. The case studies illustrate the practical and cultural hurdles researchers, software designers and scientists face when attempting to develop methods, techniques and tools for practitioners and what can be done about it. The literature reviewed shows that these issues are by no means restricted to the environmental sector alone but are widespread across public and private industries whether in medicine, marketing or sales. Thus, the approach suggested will be relevant to many scientist, engineers and software developers involved in the production of tools and techniques across a wide spectrum of organisations (link to website).

Site selection strategies and tools for river surveys

by Naura, M. & Hornby D. D.

Choosing a sampling strategy

How do you choose survey sites for river characterisation?

In short, it all depends on your overall aims.

The sites chosen for the River Habitat Survey (RHS) baseline surveys in 1994-6 and 2007-8 were originally identified from Ordnance Survey1:50,000 Landranger maps using a stratified sampling strategy using a 10km grid.  The aim was to get a representative picture of river habitats across England and Wales.  The stratification was introduced to provide a sample that could also be used to characterise smaller geographical units such as river basins or catchments.  Random sampling strategies without stratification may indeed produce clusters of sites in parts of the country and leave some areas unsampled. In the end, 3 RHS site locations were randomly selected within every 10km-square in England, Wales and Scotland.

Stratification can be performed according to a geographical area (e.g. squares or catchment boundaries), a river type or stream orders.  It all depends on your specific reasons for introducing a stratum in your sample.  If your aim is to compare the distribution of features across river types, you may want to stratify according to a set typology or stream orders. If your aim is to compare counties or states, then state or county boundaries may be used to stratify your sample.

You need to remember that you need to account for the effect of stratifying your sample when analysing the data.  For example, a geographical stratification using squares (e.g RHS baseline surveys) may introduce a bias when analysing the overall sample as a whole as it gives more weight to squares with low stream densities.  If, following survey, you find that 80% of your sites are heavily modified, it could be wrong to state that 80% of rivers in your geographical area are modified because unmodified streams in upland and headwaters squares will be under-represented compared to modified streams in lowland squares.  You would need to correct your statistics using stream densities for each square.

There are other methods for sampling.  One is to select sites at regular intervals (e.g. every 2km along the network from source to sea).  Regular samples generate unbiased statistics as long as the chosen sampling interval does not correspond to the ‘wave length’ of the features you want to record.  For example, the distribution of features such as riffles is a function of channel bankfull width.  Now imagine that a specific habitat feature tend to occur every 2000m.  Depending on your starting point, a 2km regular sampling strategies may completely miss the feature out.  It is therefore important to make sure that the interval between survey sites does not correspond to the interval of occurrence of features you want to record.

Selecting your sites

When we put together the first RHS baseline survey in 1994, site selection was done by hand. This required quite a bit of work by a team of people who had to select every site using paper maps and random number tables (for more details click here).  The method used for stratification itself introduced some bias.  Indeed, sites were selected in every 10km-squares by further dividing them into 2km-squares.  A 2km-square would then be chosen at random and the point on the river closest to the centre of the square would represent the midpoint of the RHS site.  This selection method meant that large rivers were more likely to be selected than narrower ones potentially introducing a bias based on river width.

Geographical Information System (GIS) can help automate the identification of suitable river survey sites and reduce sampling bias. GIS can save significant time and money; reducing an intensive manual process which requires a team of people, to an individual pressing a button and obtaining a selection of sites within minutes!

GIS selection is not bias free though!  I have seen algorithms implementing ‘random’ samples by randomly selecting polylines in a river network.  Because polylines will be of different lengths, the sample obtained is likely to be biased towards small polylines (e.g. 1m) that will be over-represented in the network compared to longer ones (e.g. 10km).

To generate random samples for my research, I used RivEX which is an ArcGIS 10.1 AddIn that can automate the sampling of river networks. Provided you possess a valid network (a topologically correct centreline network), you can generate sampling locations using random or regular sampling strategies in RivEX.

With regular sampling you can generate points on the network:

●     for each line of the network

●     at a user specified stepping distance from network mouth

With random sampling you can generate points on the network:

●     by sampling the whole network

●     by stratifying the sampling with a user defined grid

●     by stratifying the sampling with a user supplied polygon layer

Each sampling point generated is snapped to the river network and have attributes of ID, XY coordinates, intersecting polyline ID and in the case of supplying a polygon layer the polygon ID.  The sampling points generated can form the basis for your catchment or river survey but you can also use them to:

●     transfer metrics encoded into the network to the sampling points such as distance to network mouth or Strahler order;

●     query other spatial layers (e.g. geology, land use or authority boundaries);

●     generate catchment boundaries using an appropriate DEM;

●     answer network tracing problems such as identifying the nearest site downstream or upstream.

The tool is scalable allowing you to generate sampling points at a national, regional or sub-catchment level. Figure 1 demonstrates stratified sampling using CCM data for Ireland. A 10Km grid is built and each cell sampled 3 times, the entire process took only 30 seconds!

Figure 1Figure 1. Stratified sampling of rivers in Ireland. RivEX was used to generate a 10Km grid and sampled each cell 3 times. CCM River and Catchment Database © European Commission – JRC, 2007.

With RivEX you can generate regularly spaced sampling points at a user specified distance from the network mouth.  Figure 2 show the river Shannon in Ireland sampled every 10Km. Such a dataset would be vital for a walk over campaign allowing your field surveyors to survey the river at known coordinates.  I personally used this very useful function to extract GIS data for typing rivers and implementing predictive models.

Figure2

Figure 2. Regular sampling of the main stem of the river Shannon, Ireland, with a stepping distance of 10Km. CCM River and Catchment Database © European Commission – JRC, 2007.

Conclusion

Defining a sampling strategy is a very important first step in any project aimed at characterising a river catchment or area.  The choice of sampling strategy, method and intensity as well as the tool used are crucial and require careful consideration with regards to potential biases introduced.  Tools exist that can help with automate the procedures and reduce bias.

For more information, read Jeffers, J. N. R. 1979 Sampling. Cambridge, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, 7pp. (Statistical Checklist, 2). (Link to publication online)