Welcome to the ToolHab Decision Support System.

ToolHab is a Decision Support System developed for the Environment Agency England and Wales to help assess and prioritise river reaches for habitat enhancement work.

ToolHab is one of the outcomes of a wider five-year research project sponsored by the Environment Agency and hosted by the University of Southampton (School of Geography) on decision support and river management.  The aim of the research was to investigate the factors affecting the uptake of science and scientific products such as computer tools and models within a conservation organisation.  

Through its servers, intranet and internet connections, Environment Agency staff have access to a wide range of data and knowledge of potential benefit to their many duties (e.g. the national fisheries database (NFPD), the RHS database, BioSys, GIS data, aerial photographs, satellite images, species databases etc). One major issue is to make these sources of information available to staff in a format that is relevant to their work and adapted to their skills and work practice.

Decision Support Systems are computer programs that help users in their day-to-day decision-making processes by providing them with information relevant to their jobs. Decision Support Systems combine databases and predictive models into simple user interfaces.

This particular project was initiated by the Environment Agency fisheries science team and Thames region Fisheries, Recreation and Biology team to investigate the potential use of existing data and computer software for managing fish and their habitats.

The aim of this project is to develop a prototype Decision Support System using existing knowledge, data and software to help with the management of fish population and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive.  The prototype DSS will be tested by Environment Agency staff from fisheries and other department. 

The Decision Support System contains data for a total of 15 rivers of which 10 are located in Thames region, 3 in North West region and 2 in North East region.  Only information for the main stems of the rivers were included in ToolHab.  A range of datasets on fisheries, river habitats, water quality, biology and man-made structures are available through a built-in GIS interface and a series of simple forms and graphs.  ToolHab also contains simple conceptual models of habitat suitability for nine species of fish and three life stages designed by fisheries experts from the Environment Agency.

Altogether, ToolHab provides simple and easy access to existing data and knowledge on rivers and fish thus facilitating the assessment of habitat quality, the identification of pressures and impacts, and the identification of measures for restoring/improving habitats.

The project record is available in the shape of a PhD thesis document downloadable from the University of Southampton and on the Environment Agency portal (project SC060093).