Last week was a bit of a first for us and myself. We (the River Restoration Centre) held our first full day online hydromorphological training course with a virtual field work component! Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, we have been unable to offer our usual series of training courses in person. The challenge here was to develop a course that provide the same kind of experience as the one we normally run that includes a very important field component where participants can directly experience hydromorphological processes and forms as well as pressures and impacts of modifications.
So we have been busy designing new ways of offering the same experience online by adding virtual site visits and even fieldwork. We delivered the Introduction to Hydromorphology (Level 1) training course using a combination of Zoom and Google Earth software. Fifteen delegates joined us on the Zoom call with regular switches to Google Earth and Streetview to demonstrate and experience hydromorphological processes forms and drivers virtually using one of our case study catchment on which we collected a lot of 360 photographs. Polls were set up to ask the delegates questions, and create as much of an interactive session as possible to keep everybody’s attention alive.
The crux of the course was to introduce delegates to a framework for analysing catchment and river processes, forms and how they are influenced by modifications and land management. This was achieved through formal short presentation followed by group work, in pairs, in the air and on virtual ground using Google Earth online, 360⁰ photos, and historic maps.
Delegates worked in pairs through tasks to spot features and modifications, think about processes, and map pressures. Finally, delegates were asked to assess everything we had gone over in the training and offer justified restoration options. This was a great opportunity to go over all the concepts we had been introduced to, and brainstorm ideas.
Feedback from the course has been really encouraging, and we are now looking at adapting the rest of our courses online and run more this Summer and Autumn. We are also considering adapting the River Habitat Survey course, potentially turning the existing presentations that are delivered in a training room into a series of online modules with virtual field work, and organising site visits separately over a few days to practice doing the survey whilst maintaining social distancing rules. We will be in touch with more information soon and we would welcome your suggestions.
In the meantime, please visit the RRC website to view our training events and please email us firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending a virtual training course.
The RHS Toolbox 1.4 features new functionality to extract map data such as altitude, slope and geology as well as indices on hydromorphological naturalness and fine sediment runoff from agricultural sources. The software also features new indices assessing hydromorphological impact.
The new tools will 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 Office.
Automated map data extraction for sites in England,
Wales and Scotland (only available to licenced users)
To be able to run a context analysis with the RHS Toolbox, you need to derive altitude, slope, distance to source and height of source to calculate the PCA score for your site that will be used to select sites of similar types (see Jeffers, 1998 in References and Context analysis).
the RHS Toolbox, you can now automatically extract this information using a
database of previously derived point on the river network. A form will display
all nearby points using the mid-site grid reference and you will be able to map
them to decide which one to choose for your site (see below). This feature is only
available to licenced users and is not available to trial versions.
The process will not only extract data on for PCA score calculation but also background information on geology, sinuosity, typology using the Jeffers types (1998) and also predictions for four hydromorphological indices (Indices) in semi-natural conditions. This will enable the calculation of Hydromorphological Impact Ratio indices for your site to assess departure from semi-natural conditions (see below).
series of indices and fields have been added to the interface.
Hydromorphological Impact Ratios
Provided your site is located in Great Britain, the software will extract predictions for four hydromorphological indices (Appendix 2 and also in the resource section and Naura et al, 2016) at semi-natural conditions (the ‘expected’ column in the figure below). These indices were derived as part of a research project (Naura et al ms). The RHS Toolbox will then calculate Hydromorphological Impact Ratios (HIR) for each index.
HIRs represent the level of departure from semi-natural condition (or impact) for each index compared to the maximum level of departure (or maximum possible impact) that could be expected (see figure below and Appendix 4 or here for download). The HIRs are expressed as percentage values from 0% (no impact) to 100% (maximum possible impact). The site HIR represents the maximum possible impact for any of the four indices categorised into 12.5% impact classes:
Very Low : HIRindex between 0 and 12.5%
Low : HIRindex between 12.5 and 25%
Moderate : HIRindex between 25 and 37.5%
High : HIRindex between 37.5 and 50%
Very High : HIRindex between 50 and 100%.
Agricultural fine sediment load and potential risk to
Provided your site is located in Great Britain, the software will extract information on agricultural fine sediment delivery to your site in tonnes per year and derive a series of indices representing Agricultural Sediment Load (ASL), Fine Sediment Accumulation (FSA) and overall Agricultural Sediment Risk (ASR). These indices were derived as part of research for the UK government and published in 2016 (Naura et al 2016).
agricultural fine sediment delivery represent all fine sediments transported
from upstream in the water column and local sediment delivery through run-off
and tributary inputs. The data are derived using modelling but can be entered
by hand by the user.
agricultural fine sediment delivery represent all fine sediments delivered
through run-off and tributary inputs.
Fine Sediment Accumulation index is derived directly from your RHS site
spot-check data for channel substrate.
Sites will be categorised according to the number of spot-checks with
silt, sand or clay as:
Very low = 0
spot-checks with fine sediments
Low = 1 spot-check
with fine sediments
spot-checks with fine sediments
High = 4 to 6
spot-checks with fine sediments
Very high = 7 to 10
spot-checks with fine sediments
The ASR combines the FSA and ASL using the following matrix
. 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.
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
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.