Essex Rivers Hub

Improvement to buffer strips that separate the arable land from the channel

A buffer strip, in this case, is a section of land between arable fields or intensive grassland and the channel, where natural vegetation is left to establish. They help to reduce the amount of soil that can enter the channel during wet weather. It is important to stop soil from the fields entering the channel (it is referred to as silt once it enters the water) as it can have a severe affect on the ecosystem.

Silt is an issue because it covers the river bed smothering fish fry and invertebrates and can even block fish gills. The buffer strips in this area were very narrow and almost non-existent in places. If the silt is allowed to build up and cover gravels this will reduce habitats for future fish fry and invertebrates resulting in their populations dropping.

In some cases excessive build up of silt can cause the channel to become blocked meaning dregding becomes necessary more often. Dredging involves scraping and removing silt from the channel meaning that natural in-channel habitats are destroyed, these habitats can re-establish but if dredging is done regularly or on a big scale it is difficult for these habitats to return.

In addition to the silt anything that is added to the field such as fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides also enter the channel and these are also disastrous to the ecosystem. They can encourage excess growth of some plants resulting in a choked channel which causes the oxygen in the water to drop. This can prove fatal for fish and invertebrates or result in them migrating to a different area of the river.

Reducing runoff from fields can also be good for the farmer as it means that they are not losing valuable good quality soils and fertilisers.

A small strip of land can make a difference if it is managed well and in good condition. The recommend width is 6 metre to produce the best results

RBD/catchment/river/tributary

River Roach Catchment

WFD water body status

Moderate

WFD overall status objective

To achieve Good Ecological status by 2027

Project type

Improving water quality

Benefiting species and/or habitats

Reducing the levels of silt, fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides that enter the water course. This will help to increase fish and invertebrate populations.

Total area surveyed

Cherry Orchard Country Park

Website key stakeholders:

Environment Agency logo      Essex Wildlife Trust logo            Essex Biodiversity Project logo

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting based on an original concept by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust