The Water Hub launched a series of exciting challenges at our annual networking event RIPPLE.  We called on our network of innovators to propose solutions to the Wear Rivers Trust to address their challenge of Mapping of Invasive and Non Native Species.  To see Paul Atkinson’s presentation from RIPPLE, download his presentation here.

The Challenge Holder, Wear Rivers Trust, is a small environmental charity, juggling delivery of multiple complex catchment restoration projects which includes continual project development, funding applications, delivery, reporting etc. They conserve, protect, rehabilitate and improve the landscape and watercourses and rely on volunteer support to do this.

The Challenge
Wear Rivers Trust are currently delivering a a project which aims to produce a strategic full catchment Wear Invasive Non Native Species (WINNS) Management Plan and coordinate the treatment of invasive plant species including Giant Hogweed, Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam.  This challenge aims to trial a new approach to invasive species mapping in one priority sub-catchment called the Old Durham Beck. Their objectives are:
1. to improve the accuracy and consistency of data collection and interpretation;
2. to deliver efficiencies in the process (time and money);
3. to explore scalable solutions.

Current data collection method – Coordination of volunteer walkovers and interpretation of data requires a huge amount of resource in return for incomplete, inconsistent and often unreliable data sets. To enable data collection to happen, staff have to secure landowner permissions, carry out multiple site specific risk assessments and method statements, produce survey protocols, train volunteers, coordinate walkovers and interpret data for uploading to GIS which is often difficult to read scribbles on paper maps.

Project brief – Wear Rivers Trust need a cost effective and consistent approach to collect and interpret WINNS distribution data. The entire catchment is a large area, so the Old Durham Beck sub catchment represents the extent of this study. Using the current method, the cost to Wear Rivers Trust of mapping the Old Durham Beck will be approximately £6,750.

Award announced – Wear Rivers Trust partner with Newcastle University to develop a bespoke monitoring solution.

We are delighted to announce that the Wear Rivers Trust will be partnering with Dr Aileen Mill and Dr Clare Fitzsimmons from the Modelling, Evidence and Policy Group at Newcastle University to develop a bespoke solution for their organisation.

The collaboration will assess how easy it is to detect giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam using three techniques:

1. walk-over survesy;
2. plane flown aerial imagery + lidar; and,
3. drone mounted cameras.

This will explore how easy it is to detect each plant species at different scales and will help the Wear Rivers Trust to develop a multi-scale remote-sensing strategy to support and direct management, while optimising costs, for the whole catchment.

Speaking after the announcement, Paul Atkinson, Project Officer at the Wear Rivers Trust said
The trust is pleased to be supporting local innovation to help solve the growing problem of invasive plants along Wear waterways. We hope that hi tech can help us detect INNS and inform our strategy to restore the ecology of our river banks’.

For updates on how the project progresses, follow the Wear Rivers Trust.