The Woodland Trust's story
The Faughan is used as a source of drinking water for the city of Derry-Londonderry and the surrounding area. Water is pumped from the river, immediately above Campsie Dam to a treatment works in Carnmoney. The increased turbidity of the water (due to high particle levels mainly from surface runoff and bank erosion) makes the cost of treatment of drinking water much higher, a direct cost to the NI economy.
The Woodland Trust Northern Ireland (WTNI) in partnership with the Loughs Agency and supported by NIW, is currently working with landowners in the diversion of water from existing drains into wet wood systems. Existing field drains carry nutrients and sediment during flood events from the land directly into the River Faughan.
Measures will be put in place to improve water quality and create wet woodlands to improve the local biodiversity value of the sites. The project is aimed at improving water quality by buffering sediment and nutrients originating from agricultural units within the project area. The project has seen the diverting of drains into a section of field via a series of leaky dams and then into newly created ponds. This technique has been deployed by WTNI and Loughs Agency within woodland at Killaloo and a previous project on a farm in the Faughan Valley, with positive results.
Water temperature affects all physical, chemical and biological processes in the freshwater environment. It displays natural daily and seasonal variations, depending upon location and climate. Daily temperature fluctuations are more pronounced in small streams, particularly if they are not shaded. In freshwater systems, most species require a specific temperature range. For salmonids, this is between 5°C and 15°C for normal growth.
Riparian vegetation also has much wider ecological benefits as it improves habitat quality for a range of biological communities and helps to maintain ecosystem function. For example, it provides organic inputs in the form of leaf litter and insects, accounting for up to 50 per cent of the energy in a river system. This project will increase the riparian resource throughout the Faughan Valley. The river corridors see the improvement and creation of vital new habitat for fish species, will increase angling potential and benefit wildlife in general but will also increase the ecosystem services for a productive landscape.
Useful learnings from the Woodland Trust
This project was developed through a partnership between the Woodland Trust Northern Ireland and the Loughs Agency, with support from NI Water. That partnership - with signed agreements, project board and pooling of resources - is what has made it the success that it has become. It has meant bringing together the skills and expertise of the partners, the Trust's track record of landowner engagement, woodland creation support and the Loughs Agency's scientific and local knowledge.
The riparian planting project has since developed into a wider initiative, including the Wet Woods through experimentation and pooling techniques used in isolation to create a holistic package that is deliverable and tangible.
Landowners and farmers have been key to the project, through extensive landowner engagement. By building up projects with individuals at a pace that is comfortable for them, we have seen farmers start with a riparian buffer strip then gain the confidence to start planting larger scale native woodland and installing Wet Woods.
The Trust's Faughan Valley volunteers have provided additional support for the project and local ownership of the initiative. The training provided by WTNI and the Loughs Agency has seen skill sets developed and the partnership able to redirect resources to increase outputs.
The Woodland Trust's metrics
Photographs recording the project as it progresses.
Water monitoring by WTNI/Loughs Agency volunteers.
Water monitoring of the River Faughan as part of Loughs Agency statutory duties.
Qualitative feedback from landowners/stakeholders.