Our first post-pandemic forum with research updates
Vitacress Conservation Trust 2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum – 25 November
The annual Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT) Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum took place on 25 November at Sparsholt College, Winchester, attracting 120 attendees with an interest in the health of the UK’s important chalk streams.
We were extremely fortunate to have Charles Rangeley-Wilson, broadcaster, filmmaker, author and journalist, Chair the event, particularly on the day that the CaBA Chalk Stream Restoration Strategy was published, giving Charles the opportunity to outline its content and answer questions. This Plan will be used to drive progress by government and regulators, water companies, landowners, NGOs and river associations right down to the grass roots level of individuals who are passionate about their local river.
Kate Heppell, a Professor of Physical Geography specialising in water quality and hydrology and currently seconded from School of Geography in Queen Mary University of London to the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project gave a presentation on her work entitled “Tracking Water Quality—” A Co-designed Online Observatory for the River Chess”.
Kate’s research is focused on the transport and transformation of contaminants and pollutants as they move through lowland river catchments and undergo exchanges at the interface of land, water and atmosphere.
The other guest speaker was Martin de Retuerto, Strategic & Operational Director for Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, supporting delivery of their Wilder 2030 strategy and striving to tip the balance in favour of nature’s recovery.
Building upon experience in project management of large, capital habitat restoration schemes and themes covering chalkstreams, river and floodplain restoration and freshwater systems, Martin’s focus includes the strategic development of programmes around expansion of the nature recovery network, protection of the nature reserve estate, rewilding, species reintroductions and nature based solutions.
Graham Roberts, Chair of the Upper Itchen Initiative reported on the numerous issues this group has been involved with since the last Forum, including ongoing concerns regarding sewage, abstraction and phosphorus levels. He also updated on the Riverfly Monitoring initiative, White-clawed Crayfish Conservation and the Southern Chalkstreams and Watercress & Winterbournes projects.
Finally, PhD students outlined their research progress in pre-recorded films:
- Jen Ball (University of Southampton), one of the Vitacress Conservation Trust sponsored PhD researchers, gave a short update on her work “Ecosystem Services in Chalk Streams”. As part of her research Jen also led a workshop after the Forum which about 25 of the Forum delegates volunteered to attend. The workshop built on some of Jen’s previous research on drivers of change for chalk streams, with Jen leading a process to look at aspirations for the Test and Itchen, working through how these might be realised.
- Another VCT part sponsored PhD researcher, Kieran Gething, Nottingham Trent University outlined his work which is focussed on recognising and protecting the aquatic-terrestrial biodiversity of dynamic river ecosystems.
- Lauren Hibbert, a Vitacress sponsored PhD student studying molecular breeding of watercress at the University of Southampton and the University of California, Davis presented her project entitled “Developing watercress with improved phosphate use efficiency”.
Forum presentations available for download:
Chalk Stream Restoration
Charles Rangeley-Wilson – National Chalk Stream Restoration Group Chair
Tracking Water Quality – “A Co-designed Online Observatory for the River Chess”
Kate Heppell – Queen Mary University of London
Wilder Catchments – Shifting Status Quos
Martin de Retuerto – Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
The Upper Itchen Initiative Update
Graham Roberts – UII Group Chair
• Using the Ecosystem Services Concept to Improve Understanding and Management of Chalk Streams
Jen Ball – University of Southampton
• Recognising and Protecting Aquatic-Terrestrial Biodiversity of Dynamic River Ecosystems
Kieran Gething – Nottingham Trent University
• Developing Watercress with Improved Phosphate Efficiency
Lauren Hibbert – UC Davis
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