Environmental impact - clearing trees

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Mark R
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Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Mark R »

This thread came to mind after reading Tom Laws ticking off paddlers for the environmentally dubious practice of paddling dry rivers in one thread, whilst mentioning removing trees from another river in another thread. Hmm. No, this isn't a dig at Tom, it's just that it's raised something that I've always felt ambiguous about.

Should we be removing or clearing trees and bushes from rivers, simply because they inconvenience our paddling?
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meatballs
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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by meatballs »

Dead trees in the river or live trees encroaching on the river?
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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Adrian Cooper »

Any trees providing habitat for otters or shelter for aquatic species.

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by JimmyP »

Woody debris in the river provided a much more 'natural' habitat for creatures to call home and to stabilize the bed load . Imho much more thought should be given when removing trees from the river as to whether its the right decision. There is a lot of research underlining the importance of woody debris and its benefits. It is probably a larger issue than the possible damage caused by paddling rivers at a low level. They provide varied habitats increasing the biodiversity of the reach of river.

I would be very careful when posting about the removal of trees on the internet because I know for a fact some consultancy's who work for major stake holders within national parks would advise to leave the woody debris. This could result in some form of legal action. There is a move towards leaving it in upland rivers when flooding is not an issue.

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ol
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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by ol »

Having probably driven to the river on a huge tarmac ribbon crossing the once untouched countryside, I don't see the harm in it...
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rich gunton
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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by rich gunton »

Cavers and climbers have been messing arround with they,re rock for years. I dont think theres too much problem with moving the odd tree. We all going to be living underwater soon anyhow. If we want to save the environment we should start at the source of the problem by not haveing anymore children.
Last edited by rich gunton on Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by TechnoEngineer »

Mark R wrote:Should we be removing or clearing trees and bushes from rivers, simply because they inconvenience our paddling?
Another dilemma to consider is whether we should be putting treated sewerage into rivers, or whether everyone should use composting toilets. I'd be willing to bet that treated sewerage has a much greater impact on a river's ecology than the removal of strainers.
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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Spud »

Look up scientific journals on the effect of river speed, river habitat and catchment flooding effects of clearing debry from rivers/streams.
It is suggested that clearing this debry has sped up the rate of flow of water courses causing increasing occurances of flash flooding in areas where it was once infrequent. The debry in the rivers acts to slow the speed with smaller scale flooding happening further up stream, which overall has less effect on the environment.
It provides greater amounts of habitat for many species flora and fauna.
It makes the rivers cleaner which fill our resivours due to more sediment being dumped in areas of slower flow, so better quality drink water in our reservoirs. Most of these effects are put down to clearing water courses for easier access to reservoirs for our use.
Emphasis is currently being put on "soft engineering" approaches to water catchment management.
From this I assume that the few trees we do clear make very little difference to the whole effect, but certainly contribute.

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by RichA »

Something like the telegraph tree on the Einion waterfall won't contribute to flooding, but is a bit annoying if you want to paddle the river. (Unless it's moved?) I don't think that will have a negative effect if it's removed.

A strainer on a river like the Mynach on the other hand is quite clearly a mini ecosystem in the spray of the upstream waterfall, and I don't think should be removed.

A strainer on a section of the Conwy for instance, say under Waterloo Bridge in Betws-y-Coed, might cause flooding and so should probably be reported to the EA for them to deal with.

Maybe a bit of common sense would help? But then again who are we to judge!

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Pam Bell »

rich gunton wrote:Cavers and climbers have been messing arround with they,re rock for years.
They have, but the debate was going on when I started climbing, and is still alive...
Scottish Mountaineering Council
“Repeated use of axes on unfrozen vegetation can strip it away and so the conditions under which they are best climbed becomes very important. It also directly corresponds to the argument about whether an ascent is legitimately 'winter'. Regarding the ethics of damage to the rock itself, perhaps there is scope in a compromise which makes greater distinction between future potential summer and winter climbing, which not only helps the conservation of each of its particular botanical interest, but defines the ethics of the sport more closely. The occasional 'cleaning' of vegetation from rock prior to an ascent in summer is accepted practice, but nature quickly takes a hold when the routes remain infrequently climbed. In Glen Nevis, some of the harder climbs now require re-cleaning as do some of the harder routes in the Arrochar Alps area.
If a potential new rock climb is so vegetated and lichenous that it takes a major effort to 'clean' it, then perhaps it is best left alone, particularly if it is doubtful whether it will become popular (and if the crag is north facing and is that 'mucky' it probably won't!). There is ample unclimbed 'clean rock' for summer development and the vegetated and lichenous lines would be much more suited to winter ascents. They would encompass the need for future development of winter climbing and would be preferable to climbing established or future quality rock climbs. But ascents of these routes need to be done in 'Full Winter Conditions' to minimise crampon and axe damage to that vegetation.
To help bring all these interconnected strands together we have drawn up the following guidance. This is only a draft idea and we would welcome comment from all climbers.
Kevin Howett”
It's good that as paddlers we can debate these issues openly now, instead of trying to be a 'stealth' sport, but it's easier to obtain empirical evidence in the 'Rights with Responsibilities' culture in Scotland!

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by caveman_si »

Spud wrote:Look up scientific journals on the effect of river speed, river habitat and catchment flooding effects of clearing debry from rivers/streams.
It is suggested that clearing this debry has sped up the rate of flow of water courses causing increasing occurances of flash flooding in areas where it was once infrequent. The debry in the rivers acts to slow the speed with smaller scale flooding happening further up stream, which overall has less effect on the environment.
It provides greater amounts of habitat for many species flora and fauna.
It makes the rivers cleaner which fill our resivours due to more sediment being dumped in areas of slower flow, so better quality drink water in our reservoirs. Most of these effects are put down to clearing water courses for easier access to reservoirs for our use.
Emphasis is currently being put on "soft engineering" approaches to water catchment management.
From this I assume that the few trees we do clear make very little difference to the whole effect, but certainly contribute.

While hydrology isnt my stongest subject I think the removal of debris from the actual watercourse has little effect on flash flooding. I think you might be confused with general deforestation and the increase in non/low permeable surfaces near to water courses. This does have a maked effect on the hydrology of a river. One of the reason building houses in upland areas is a daft idea unless you include surface water runoff attenuation into the design of the housing area. Or ploughing hills vertically instead of horizontally and not having a grassy buffer zone between argricultural land and a water course.
Debris on the side of a river may cause the river to be rougher and hence slow down the water and help reduce the possibility of flooding down stream but I imagine you would need a lot of tree debris for a quite a distance to do that.

Personally removing one tree that poses a major inconvince/safety issue isnt a problem as it will eventually rot and break up on it own and the habit will change, that is the nature of a river. BUt whole scale removal of lots of trees from the edges of watercourses is where I would draw the line. I am happy with the removal of strainers to, as while they can provide a wonderfull temperary habit to some wild life, they will eventually rot and go and I think the possilbe effects from a strainer dam breaks could be worse.

Of course that all my own opinion and if there is good science to change my mind I will happliy review it.

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Tom_Laws »

I hadn't realised that another thread was my fault!

RE the low water damage - you will leave colourful plastic all over the place... you only need to go to a oft'used put in or portage to see that our outdoor sport has a pretty obvious calling card

As for removing trees; my thoughts are that if its a a thumping gert big logjam, it can stay there, people will have to deal with it. If its a dead fall or flood debris that is blocking/providing a significant hazard (and I can be bothered) I'll fish it out or work out a way round it. If it's a tempting grind rail, like the Einion tree it can stay there and add to the fun!

If a tree has jammed there and doesn't sort itself, chances are another will lodge there pretty soon, you could happily spend years pulling things about.

Tom

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by canoepaddler »

This article from American Whitewater has some very useful information and advice.

http://www.americanwhitewater.org/conte ... play_full_

We're only beginning to understand the role Large Woody Debris used to play in the health of our rivers- one of the reasons that the beaver introduction is so exciting.

I think the answer is- is it a hazard? If not, don't just remove it to show how big your saw is...

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Poke »

TechnoEngineer wrote:Another dilemma to consider is whether we should be putting treated sewerage into rivers, or whether everyone should use composting toilets.
Given experiences in India, a lack of a decent sewerage/treatment system is a bad idea :-)
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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Chris W »

I'm pretty sure that one of the factors that contributed to the Lyn flood in 1953 was trees and debris piling up further upstream, to create temporary dams, which as the weight of water built up above them, eventually gave way. So, yep, minimising the number of tiresome portages isn't the only reason for keeping rivers clear of trees. It's something that I thought landowners were required to do (?).

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Poke »

Chris W wrote:I'm pretty sure that one of the factors that contributed to the Lyn flood in 1953 was trees and debris piling up further upstream,
Wasn’t this more to do with the covert cloud seeding experiments in the preceeding days? :-)
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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Chris W »

I'd rather blame flooding on fallen trees, because they waste valuable boating time.

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Tom_Laws »

Poke wrote:
Chris W wrote:I'm pretty sure that one of the factors that contributed to the Lyn flood in 1953 was trees and debris piling up further upstream,
Wasn’t this more to do with the covert cloud seeding experiments in the preceeding days? :-)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1516880.stm
Cloud seeding, Canalisation and divertion of the river's natural course, debris accumulating on the bridges forming massive dams that subsequently broke...
You'll notice that the bridges of the Lyn are now magic "blow-off" bridges that fall off their foundations rather than letting things build up behind them!
I guess the debris were a result as well as a cause!

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by The Walnut Cracker »

It is worth mentioning that if the river or land adjacent to it, is notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Special Area of Conservation (SAC) a consent may be required from the agency responsible for those designations before any trees could be cleared. The relevant agencies are SNH, Countryside Agency or CCW depending if you are in Scotland, England or Wales. I'm unsure of the NI agency.
It would require the owner (in the terms of a notification the water is deemed to be owned by someone ie the adjacent land owner) to apply for a consent. If works were carried out, and any features of the SSSI/SAC were damaged when no consent had been obtained the owner is the liable person and could face a very hefty fine.

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Eliza Dolittle »

It has been proposed that on the Basingstoke Canal the tree cover is reduced by 90% (Ninety, it's not a typo) to promote growth of aquatic plants. Most of it is an SSSI. More info on Pages 2 and 3 of http://www.basingstoke-canal.org.uk/bcn/bcn220.pdf

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by niallzo »

I would have to say it depend on your method of clearing, if its a case of simple gardening of a branch that is overhanging a drop then most likly its perfectly fine, however if your going to take a petrol chain saw in during the breading season of a rare bird in some sssi to clear whole trees then it may become an issue surly there is far larger environmental impacts of kayaking which we should really being adressing such as where we paddle during certain bird nest seasons, where we buy our kayaks from, not to mention the rest of the kit is there really a need to by boats and paddles from New zealand and America and drysuits from Thailand when there is so many good companies here.
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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by The Walnut Cracker »

Eliza Dolittle wrote:It has been proposed that on the Basingstoke Canal the tree cover is reduced by 90% (Ninety, it's not a typo) to promote growth of aquatic plants. Most of it is an SSSI. More info on Pages 2 and 3 of http://www.basingstoke-canal.org.uk/bcn/bcn220.pdf
The Basingstoke Canal, I spent my childhood in the 60's and 70's playing there, it was the first place that I kayaked after building my first kayak as a school project. The area from Ash Vale to Mytchette Lake was my dream playground.
The aquatic plants are probably a feature of the SSSI, the habitat would be enhanced by the clearance.
One of the problems with removal of trees already in the river is the potential to damage the surrounding area, especially if the features include Bryophytes that would be sensitive to trampling or scraping.

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by callwild »

Overall an interesting question which can not have a simple (or clearcut) answer.
I have been responsible for loads of tree and branch clearing throughout the Lake District over the years on both main rivers where recently fallen trees have blocked traditionally clear rivers through to opening up small becks for a first descent.
I like to think I measure the enviromental impact of each case against my reasons for clearance.
I must admit a new one pointed out above which has never crossed my mind is the noise pollution of a chain saw and its impact on surrounding birds and wildlife.
But my own opinion is if its a fallen tree which blocks a river then its usually fair game to remove it. I have even contacted the EA on occaission and been encouraged to do so as it helps the free flowing of water.
If its to open up a new run, then again if its a fallen dead tree I would probably remove it. If its a living tree then its a bit more difficult and it has to be considered carefully. If removing a branch allows passage without major damage which is likely to kill the tree then again I would remove it. I would be against full scale removal of a living tree and regard it as an obstacle which has to be portaged. Each case has to be looked at individually.
A recent case in the Lake District has upset me, which might sound hypocritical coming from someone who has recently spent 8 hours with a chain saw clearing dead wood from a beck.
However the tree concerned used to block the left side of the river on this rapid.
Image

The tree was small and had been there as long as I can remember dipping into the water blocking the left line. This didn't really matter as below the fall the pool on the left is full of rocks and anyone inspecting the fall would probably make the decision to run it through the clear channel on the right whether the tree was there or not.
I last ran this fall in October and didn't even notice the tree that much as for the last 20 years I have always gone right.
I was therefore both surprised and dissapointed to read last month that this tree had been regarded as a safety hazard and been removed to allow safer passage of the fall on the left. No consideration seemed to have be made as the fact that for years the rapid has been run with the tree in place or that it was one of the last remaining trees in this wild place.
In some ways it could be regarded that the removal of the tree now encourages people to run the fall in the wrong place as the lead in is simpler on the left yet they will hit the rocks in the pool.
Double standards from me maybe but it highlights a sensitive issue and the loss of this particular tree saddens me.
It seems it was removed by temporary visitors (students)to the area who in a couple of years will probably never visit the valley or run the river again.
Was there really a need to do this
Image
at all ?
Stuart Miller

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by Jay Oram »

To reply to the post above, all the paddlers who paddle it can control their boats and have been paddling in the lakes for years, yes we are students but we paddle the river most often, will continue paddling the river and we all hav paddled the line on the left successfully without landing on rocks , maybe stu can't paddle that line because he can't control the boat but others can.

The line on the right also has a rock at the very base of the fall and in normal levels you can land on it, and I have seen a very near vrtical pin. The reason the tree was removed was for safety reasons, as mentioned in this post http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... 45#p360645 A number of people have swam and been caught dangerously because of the tree, therefore it was removed, it can grow back and probably will, hopefully growing away from the river.

Jay

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by RichA »

Above, Jay wrote "all the paddlers who paddle it can control their boats and have been paddling in the lakes for years".

Written 27th Jan 2009, on Jay's blog. Funnily enough called 'justplayboating'.

The tree had been there for a couple of months and on around 10 runs, every time there was an incident with the tree, including a backwards vertical pin, involving some tree!! The tree was basically where the water flowed directly over the second fall, it was right on the lip, so as soon as you were on the tree you were hanging off the edge. So with the last group I was with we chatted about it and decided that in lower water it needed removing.

Ten months doesn't quite tie in with Stuart's idea that it's been there for as long as he can remember. Looking at the tree it's fairly obvious it's been there for more than a few months...

I think it's quite harsh to suggest that maybe Stu "can't paddle that line because he can't control the boat but others can." Clearly some people that you paddle with can't control the boat well enough, as you yourself said above. To remove a tree for that reason is wrong in my opinion, let alone belittle someones paddling ability as a result.

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by TechnoEngineer »

Poke wrote:
TechnoEngineer wrote:Another dilemma to consider is whether we should be putting treated sewerage into rivers, or whether everyone should use composting toilets.
Given experiences in India, a lack of a decent sewerage/treatment system is a bad idea :-)
You're missing the point, by adopting the widespread use of composting toilets we would be introducing far less sewerage into rivers, as well as keeping trace elements (e.g. potassium) in the nutrient cycle instead of flushing them into the sea. I'm not advocating putting untreated sewerage into rivers!
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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by 'Whiskers »

Really interesting thread, cheered up my boring Friday afternoon - thanks.

Putting on my tree-hugging-hippy hat I would veer towards leaving things as they are and letting nature take its course. On the other hand, I have been known to want to paddle a stretch of river un-hampered and as a result returned home, collected a saw and proceeded to dangle my pal James off a bridge by his ankles so he could do the deed. As a result we had a cracking run and avoided, um, hugging a tree.

The "tree" I mention was in fact a single branch, scarcely 4 inches in diameter, was trapped under rocks and more than likely would have rotted naturally in time all by itself. In my opinion this was a fair enough thing to do. However, there are a number of instances when I would refrain from tree removal, much of these relating to the size of the tree, extent of coverage to be removed and what other wildlife might be using the tree or be nearby.

For example in this country all wild bird species are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) making it an offence to intentionally (or recklessly) kill, injure or take any wild bird, take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built, or take or destroy an egg of any wild bird. Additionally, some birds are protected further by other parts of the same Act making it an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb such birds at an active nest site with eggs or young or before eggs are laid, or to disturb the dependent young. One such "fully protected" bird is the kingfisher, which is a bank-nesting species and which *might* (in some instances) be disturbed by trampling or excessive noise.

Other species you might want to consider are otters (who often make holts in complex tree-root structures and are protected by other legislation which is backed by European law) and water voles (who bank-nest and for whom the level of protection under the WCA has recently increased). Whilst I am on the subject of protected species, there are also bats (which may roost in big old trees under bark, in cracks, crevices, woodpecker holes and hollow trunks, and are protected to the same level as otters). Any seriously chunky tree removal, such as wide-spread clearance of big old willow pollards that have fallen across a stream, plus dense scrubby/woody vegetation along rivers must therefore take this into account. From my experience though, tree removal seems to be a bit more limited to the odd branch here and there. Paddlers also *tend* to be running stuff in the winter months in this country, as that is when there is the most water (as a rule), so any scrub removal carried out in this time would be avoiding the breeding season.

I guess any tree removal has to be done on a case-by-case basis, and its need considered carefully before going ahead. If the tree is really going to give you a hard time and there are no other reasonable options available then (after you've considered the birds and otters and water voles and bats!) hoik it out. If it's avoidable and just a little bit annoying then leave it be and work around it - after all, isn't hazard-avoidance all part of the fun of boating...?

Ryan P - loved the link to the dam effects website!

Eliza Dolittle - The SSSI looks awesome, this is text from the citation: "the Basingstoke Canal, together with associated "flashes" and heathland, is nationally
important for aquatic plants and invertebrates. The transition from calcareous spring water to slightly acidic conditions produces an extremely diverse flora, containing approximately half (87) of Britain's native aquatic higher plant species, including 5 nationally scarce species. The Basingstoke Canal is botanically the most species-rich aquatic system in England. Twenty-four species of dragonfly occur on the Canal and other insects, including two nationally rare species, are well represented
". Wildlife management often boils down to priorities - the aquatic habitat in this SSSI is clearly considered to be more important than the trees. However reducing the shading does not necessarily mean removal of all trees - they can be coppiced (which in itself is a good thing for wildlife) and cover over the canal can be reduced just by removal of trees/branches from the edges. Let's hope they've also been busy with bat & bird surveys!
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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by jmmoxon »

http://kayakworldguide.forums-free.com Links to websites with info on white water, touring, sea & surf.

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Re: Environmental impact - clearing trees

Post by callwild »

Picture from 12 years ago showing tree.

Image

May have grown a bit bigger but was still only a natural obstacle and never came close to blocking the river right line.
We can not start sanitising our becks on this precedent as every other river in the lakes has far more problems than this ever had
I had never seen an issue or incident with this tree but if you were always having problems then ...........

Feel free to critisize my paddling ability all you like if it makes you feel better I still manage to bimble down a few becks and even know where to find the odd lost boat on the Greta !!
Stuart

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