There is a suite of research projects underway to gain a better understanding of the work required to improve the river habitat and to support the future of freshwater mussels and Atlantic salmon and all the other species that the river supports.

Projects include:

  • Continuous water quality logging using monitoring devices called sondes
  • Phosphorous sampling is association with Lancaster University
  • Algal surveys in association with Lancaster University and Bowburn Consultancy
  • Mapping of potential good juvenile mussel habitat throughout the River Ehen
  • Artificial encystment - aims to boost juvenile mussel numbers in the river (see separate page ‘Boosting mussel numbers’)
  • Reintroduction of juvenile mussels in the River Irt: A Reintroductions Research Officer has been appointed to research and trial the re-introduction of juvenile freshwater mussels bred in captivity in a facility in Windermere back into the River Irt in West Cumbria. The aim of this reseach is to not only re-introduce mussels but to improve the understanding of the process of undertaking re-introduction of juvenile mussels and to contribute to the wider body of knowledge associated with re-introduction and encystment to support mussel populations. The research will be supported by a River Irt Project Officer delivering physical measures on the ground and supporting the re-introduction of the juvenile mussels.
  • PhD - Upper Ehen Natural Flow Regime and Geomorphology: This research project is investigating the impact of removing the weir at Ennerdale Water. The area is of high ecological and cultural value so potential changes to the environment and their impacts need to be assessed. Weirs have been used to manage water in the lake for over 160 years and subsequently, no records of the natural hydrological and environmental conditions exist. Questions of particular interest are; 1) How will weir-removal alter the landscape? 2) How will the volume and flow of water in the lake and River Ehen be affected? Analysis of historic data (river flows, rainfall, lake level etc.), supplementary field data collection and computer modelling are all being used to help answer these research questions. Additional data is also being collected by members of the public. This can be seen on twitter @EnnerdaleRR (EnnerdaleRiver Research)
  • PhD - Flow Regime and Fluvial Processes of Ben Gill, a recently restored ephemeral stream. Ben Gill is a significant tributary to the ecologically important Upper River Ehen, delivering water, coarse and fine sediment when it flows. During baseflow conditions, Ben Gill stream infiltrates into the sub-surface (an alluvial fan), and therefore most of the time the stream does not flow directly into the River Ehen. However, during significant rainfall events, Ben Gill reaches a tipping point when the water can no longer all infiltrate. The ephemeral channel becomes activated, and water flows directly into the Ehen. This project involves understanding the factors that influence Ben Gill flow regime (rainfall, hydrogeology, groundwater levels), monitoring geomorphic adjustments of the ephemeral channel (erosion, deposition, sediment yields) and assessing the tributaries impacts upon the Upper Ehen (coarse and fine sediment entering the river).

Findings from all of these projects will inform management on the ground.