What it is & why it matters
Forestry is an important industry and can play a significant role in supporting healthy water environments. Forests have an amazing ability to store water, which can prevent flooding and help maintain consistent, even flows down rivers. River shading from sensitively planted trees will also play an increasingly important role in mitigating the effects of climate change in our rivers, keeping water temperatures at levels that be tolerated by salmon, trout and sea trout.
For forestry to work in sync with nature, it must be operated sensitively. When not managed responsibly, intensive commercial non-native conifer forestry plantations can cause acidification of river water and pesticides used to treat young trees can contaminate water life.
What we have done
PREVENTING PLANTATION CREATION
At the head of the River Tywi system (a Special Area of Conservation river under the EU Habitats Directive) a project for a conifer plantation was proposed - The Bryn Brawd scheme, Carmarthenshire. The river was already acidified and Carmarthenshire Rivers Trust had already invested a great deal to improve water quality by liming in the uplands.
On their behalf, we wrote a pre-action letter. This detailed our concerns about how the plantation would damage water quality and fish habitat. We demanded that a full environmental impact assessment should take place before a licence was even considered.
This was sufficient to abort the application, protecting the river and the work of the Rivers Trust.
KEEPING OUT CHEMICALS
Cypermethrin is a chemical that is bad news for our water insects, wild fish eggs and juveniles. To encourage removal from Welsh waters we initially led a campaign that saw it banned from sheep dips. Currently, cypermethrin is also used to control pine weevil in young conifer plantations, where it leaches from forests into watercourses. Our action has seen revision of licenses from 5 to 3 year durations and reassurance from Natural Resources Wales that cypermethrin would not be used in Welsh forestry beyond 2018.
The right kind of trees
We are promoting the use of strategically located woodland to help keep water in the right places. This helps stop downstream flash floods and keeps soil on the land where it belongs!
We have used the Pontbren Project as an example of good practice: