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Floodplain restoration project creates lost habitat

The floodplain forest is being recreated in the Ouse Valley Park in Milton Keynes through a joint venture between The Parks Trust and Hanson Aggregates.     

The scheme will create a rich and varied wetland ecosystem, an environment that is rare due to centuries of human modifications to rivers and floodplains.

By recreating an area of back channels in the river floodplain, the area will resemble natural conditions and over time will develop into a varied habitat supporting a diversity of wildlife.

The research project is investigating the environmental effects and benefits of the scheme to guide the management of the floodplain forest as it develops, demonstrating the contribution this type of habitat restoration makes to the environment. 

Phil Bowsher, of TheParks Trust, said: “Cranfield’s research will help us identify the best way to manage the floodplain forest to develop into a diverse wildlife habitat which the local community will be able to experience and enjoy.

“We also want to understand the full environmental effects of the scheme and to ensure the research and what we learn from our project in the Ouse Valley are shared others considering similar schemes elsewhere.”

Researcher Natalia Perez Linde, who is studying for a PhD at Cranfield, is undertaking a detailed study into environmental factors such as ground water levels, soil type, water quality and vegetation, to identify which species of plant will grow in what conditions.

She sai: “The first part of the research has considered the hydrology of the area, identifying how much water needs to enter the floodplain for certain types of vegetation to flourish. This can be managed through a series of back channels or the positioning of features such as gravel banks.”

The research outputs are expected to be available in 2015. Natalia said: “Ecosystems are dynamic. Species need a number of years to establish and the ecosystem needs time to settle.

"The guidelines will set out a framework that will enable others to quantify the success in further floodplain restoration projects." 

Hanson Aggregates has been extracting gravel from the floodplain and creating the new channels and land forms since 2007. That work is now complete and the Parks Trust will continue the habitat restoration project.