Good practice management of in channel vegetation

Description of technique

Good practice management of in channel vegetation refers to works or maintenance practices (e.g. macrophyte cutting), carried out in a manner that considers the impacts of the activity upon ecology and hydromorphology. The application of sensitive techniques can reduce or avoid adverse impacts upon the environment and can capitalise upon opportunities to benefit wildlife through habitat enhancement. As good practice management techniques are based on an understanding of river processes and work towards maintaining or returning a river to a more natural condition, the need for future engineering works will be reduced along with the associated costs.


It is important to identify the purpose of the management and consideration should always be given to ceasing maintenance and allowing natural recovery. Good practice channel management requires advance planning in order to enhance biodiversity, achieve the management aims and remain cost effective. A balance must be struck between the need to fulfil a function and to benefit wildlife. It may therefore be necessary to negotiate or justify actions to stakeholders. It may also be necessary in some cases to give priority to management aims if they are of over-riding importance e.g. prevention of flood damage to people and property.

Benefits for Water Framework Directive

Good practice of in-channel vegetation can help deliver objectives of the Water Framework Directive, by:

  • Allowing light to reach the channel (i.e. through selective tree thinning), improving macrophyte growth and providing quality habitat for invertebrates and fish spawning.
  • Ensuring marginal vegetation is retained during silt removal, providing good macrophyte habitat suitable for invertebrates and fish spawning
  • Preventing deoxygenation during die-back which can lead to fish and invertebrate mortality. Control also prevents dominance of single species and increases macrophyte diversity leading in turn to increased invertebrate diversity

Good practice management can also have a number of other benefits. For example, by restoring channels to a more natural, self cleansing condition, the need for management activities such as dredging or weed cutting can be reduced in the longer term. There is therefore an economic benefit to using sensitive management techniques. In addition, any benefits to wildlife are very often translated into increased public enjoyment of the area, conferring an amenity benefit to the works.


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