The ARRT working in partnership with the Arun & Rother Connections (ARC) Heritage Lottery Funded programme have delivered a tree planting project along the Western Rother. On Sunday 20th March around 20 volunteers joined together along the lower reaches of the Rother to plant around 200 trees. This project was supported by the South Downs National Park (SDNP) Ranger service, in particular Heathland Ranger Dan Cornell, who helped to organise a number of SDNP volunteers and bring along many of the materials required to successfully plant trees along a river. The Woodland Trust provided the tree saplings which were a selection of Common Alder, Goat Willow and Grey Willow – all known for liking to keep their roots wet along the river bank. Support was also provided in the planning of this project by Sussex Wildlife Trust, with Fran Southgate providing advice on where best to plant trees along the floodplain, and the Environment Agency, with Damon Block helping to smooth any regulatory aspects required for the works. The local Petworth & Bognor Angling Club also provided much needed assistance on the day and in the early planning stages of the project, with Roger Poole (an ARRT Trustee) and Stephen Simmonds providing greatly appreciated extra help. The ARC Volunteer Co-ordinator, Kate Whitton, helped bring along further volunteers which all helped deliver the works within one day. The satellite map (below) shows the reaches of the Rother that have been planted, located along the south bank.
Rother Tree Planting Areas: an Aerial View
This project will provide added shade along the main river channel in the years to come, helping to ‘climate proof’ our rivers for the future. There is a direct relationship between predicted enhanced climate (air) temperatures and soil and river water temperatures; enhancing tree shade has been shown by the Environment Agency to directly help keep rivers cool for the future (Ref: EA (2012) Keeping Rivers Cool – Getting Ready for Climate Change by Creating Riparian Shade). This is particularly important for fish species such as Trout and Salmon that can only tolerate cool waters; their migration upstream to spawn and the successful hatching of eggs and fry are all temperature dependant.
The trees planted along the river will also help to limit bank side erosion which reflects the very soft sandy soils and underlying local geology; the tree roots are often the hardest material found along the Rother banks and their roots help to bind and stabilise the fine soil and protect against erosion. Tree roots reaching into the channel will also provide much needed habitat diversity along the river, providing a home for a wide range of wildlife ranging from invertebrates and molluscs to fish, birds and small mammals. Growing trees along the riverbanks will also help to trap sediments in surface runoff entering the river; the Rother suffers from excess sediment within the channel which effects water quality and habitat diversity. Many thanks are extended to all those organisations and individuals who helped to deliver this project.
Ses Wright, ARRT Project Officer