Sussex Flow Initiative

Sam Buckland, Project Officer for the Sussex Flow Initiative describes how natural flood management is being used to tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity decline.

Increasing water storage to reduce flooding © Sussex Flow Initiative

The Sussex Flow Initiative started in 2012 as a Natural Flood Management project supported by Sussex Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust, the Environment Agency and Lewes District Council. The project works across the ‘catchment scale’, in other words, over the area of land where water collects and feeds into ponds, lakes and rivers. The project involves communities and landowners in the Ouse catchment, an area of 672 km2 and over 122 km of watercourses. The scheme is creating and enhancing natural features that slow and store water within the landscape, which reduces flood risk to communities downstream. The impact of the project extends far beyond the catchment boundary and flood management. A healthy landscape and river network are vital for human health and wellbeing, providing a range of benefits such as clean water and air, and increased biodiversity.

Volunteers planting trees to slow surface water © Sussex Flow Initiative
Volunteers planting trees to slow surface water © Sussex Flow Initiative

In most cases, natural flood management focuses on reversing past activities (such as drainage) and restoring the ability of the land to slow and store water. As a result, water is once again allowed to seep into soils and drain slowly into surface waters. Water also moves deeper into the soil, helping to top up the store of groundwater and resulting in a steadier supply of water. Trees can also help to control floodwater because of their importance in the water cycle. They intercept rainfall, take up water from the soil, slow down surface run-off and floodwater and help water to move deeper into the soil and groundwater. These processes hold water on land and reduce the amount and speed of water flowing into streams and rivers. Tree planting has added benefits such as providing important habitat and food for a range of birds, bats and insects, as well as storing carbon. With the help of local volunteers, our project has planted over 60,100 trees. We have established more than 9 kilometres of new hedgerow and 8.5 hectares of woodland (equivalent to the area of 10 football pitches), including over 4 hectares of floodplain woodland and 450 rare black poplars.

 

Within the stream and river channels, we have been restoring meanders, bankside vegetation and in-channel wood. These are all lost natural features that slow water and make for a dynamic and healthy ecosystem. Our project has created nearly 5 million litres of new, seasonal water storage, including flood storage ponds, wader scrapes and meadow washlands. An incredibly important part of the project is to increase the skills, knowledge and understanding of natural flood management and empower people to take positive action.

One such way is through using large woody debris, creating ‘leaky’ wood dams that imitate those that built by an important animal that has been missing from our waterways for 400 years; the beaver. Leaky dams are a natural component of streams, forming clusters of dams, slowing the water’s speed, trapping sediment and pollutants, and creating a range of different stream habitats that are important for fish and invertebrates. The presence of woody debris can also help to make the landscape more resilient to drought by encouraging the formation of small pools and helping to restore the natural movement of water. Through contractor training days and volunteer tasks, our project has installed over 270 leaky dams across the Ouse catchment. Hopefully we will see the return of beavers to Sussex catchments in the future, and with it the biodiversity and the flood management that they deliver through coppicing and dam creation.

Our project is using natural features to slow and store water in the landscape. These measures are cheap, collaborative and easy to implement, as well as delivering many other multiple benefits to society. We know that multiple actions taken now can provide positive natural flood management and natural capital benefits long into the future.

Brighton Dolphin Project Drawing Competition Winners

Brighton Dolphin Project & Royal Pavilion & Museums launched a drawing competition to celebrate the launch of the OceanBlues website and National Marine Week.  

The competition was to draw any of our six Sussex marine mammals. We had lots of fantastic entries but our two winners were:

Up to 6 years: Austin Kempton aged 6, from Hove 
Seal on a rock above the sea by Austin Kempton aged 6
7-12 years: Arlo Kempton from Hove 
Seal on a sandy beach by the salty sea, by Arlo Kempton aged 9
Well done guys!

The Experiment

Making a Ocean acidification (pH) indicator

This experiment uses the natural properties of the humble red cabbage as a magic pH indicator. You can use it to test out the acidity of seawater (or any liquids) at home!

The magic of red cabbage 

Red cabbage contains pigments called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a group of pigments that change colour based on the pH of their environment, so using the juice of red cabbage we can transform the colour of any liquid based on its pH! Let’s get stuck in!

This experiment requires adult supervision

Written by Juliet Maxted, Zoology graduate & Booth Museum volunteer 

Find out more in Climate Conversations  a Royal Pavilion & Museums blog series on Climate Change and what we can do about it.

The Science

What is ocean acidification? 

Ocean acidification reduces the amount of carbonate in the sea, affecting organisms whose bodies are made of calcium carbonate (like animals with shells and hard exoskeletons). This includes, Molluscs (sea snails, mussels, octopus) ,Echinoderms (star fish and sea urchins), Crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, plankton and krill) and Corals.

common lobster©Paul NaylorSussex Wildlife Trust.JPG

If there isn’t enough carbonate these organisms won’t be able to form properly, which could be really bad news. This is already happening to the Dungeness crab in the Pacific Ocean. Not only are all these animals important in their own right, they are vital in maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem. Corals create homes for 1 million marine species, and the other organisms (especially krill, plankton and molluscs) make up the base of the marine food web, supporting all life above them, right up to enormous whales.

Ocean chemistry 

Let’s break down the chemistry of ocean acidification. pH is measured on spectrum. The lower values (0-6) are acidic, 7 is neutral, and high values (8-12) are alkaline. Seawater currently has a pH of 8.1 making it slightly alkaline. As more carbon is stored in the sea, the pH drops, shifting it towards pH neutrality. When carbon dioxide enters the water, it bonds with water to create carbonic acid. This carbonic acid bonds with carbonate in the water creating bicarbonate. This is what makes the water more acidic and is how levels of naturally-occurring carbonate begin to fall, which is where the problems start.

In our experiment we will create a magic pH indicator which you can use to test the acidity of seawater (or any liquid at home) using the humble red cabbage. So let’s get stuck in!

Written by Juliet Maxted, Zoology graduate and Booth Museum volunteer

Find out more in Climate Conversations  a Royal Pavilion & Museums blog series on Climate Change and what we can do about it.

Kitchen ocean science

It’s not just plastics that are a threat to our  Oceans…

As part of the water cycle, our oceans regulate the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. You might have heard forests referred to as ‘the lungs of the earth’ (and they are very important), but the oceans store 16 times more carbon than terrestrial ecosystems, around 30% of carbon dioxide from human activity.

If too much carbon dioxide is stored in the ocean we see something called ocean acidification. But what is ocean acidification?  And how does it affect our oceans?

Here, we will discover the science behind ocean acidification and how you can  create an easy, and very cool, experiment at home turning red cabbage…

 From this…

To this!

 

 

The Science

The Science
What is ocean acidification?  Ocean acidification reduces the amount of carbonate in the sea, affecting organisms whose bodies are made ...
Read More

The Experiment

The Experiment
Making a Ocean acidification (pH) indicator This experiment uses the natural properties of the humble red cabbage as a magic ...
Read More

Find out more in Climate Conversations  a Royal Pavilion & Museums blog series on Climate Change and what we can do about it.

References:

https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts/ocean-acidification

https://coastadapt.com.au/ocean-acidification-and-its-effects

https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/ocean-acidification

https://www.opb.org/news/article/dungeness-crab-ocean-acidification-dissolve-shell/

 

Written by Juliet Maxted, Zoology graduate & Booth Museum volunteer