1,300 trees along the banks of the River Bure and the River Yare are being planted under the Keeping Rivers Cool initiative.The Norfolk Rivers Trust, working in partnership with the Environment Agency, is in charge of the project
The project aims to reduce water temperature in the river by providing shade, and also to create new food sources for the many organisms found in freshwater ecosystems.
About 700 trees – including common alder, dogwood, hawthorn, goat willow and silver birch – were planted at a site near Buxton this week, with the rest destined for smaller sites along the two rivers during the rest of the two-week project.
Norfolk Rivers Trust project officer Liam Reynolds said: “We’re planting all our trees in the riparian zone, essentially the first metre of the river bank. By planting there they overhang the river, which reduces the impact of the hot summers and climate change as much as possible, and the knock-on effect on the various species of fish and invertebrates.
“By planting the trees we expect the water temperature to stop rising. With hotter summers predicted in the future it is likely the temperature of rivers will increase. If the river temperature was to rise by four degrees in the space of a few weeks it will have a big knock-on effect on fish like brown trout, and the less hardy fish will die. We are trying to avoid those impacts.
“The initial benefit is cover for the fish to protect them from predation, and it provides an increased food source dropping into the river for invertebrates. So it also improves the food chain.”
Mr Reynolds said the scheme would benefit fish including brown trout, dace, chub, pike and eels.
“Here, as it is quite a deep river, the temperature rises are not going to be that significant, but there are other sites on the Yare where we are working on shallow water where there are some really nice brown trout and the difference of a few degrees could have a big effect,” he said.
The tree-planting was carried out with the help of about 20 volunteers from the Norfolk Rivers Trust and The Conservation Volunteers (TCV).
Mr Reynolds said: “Without volunteers we wouldn’t have the manpower to do what we do, so we are extremely grateful to the people who give up their time to help.”
The Norfolk Rivers Trust was established in 2011 with the objective of conserving the county’s rivers and wetlands, and “enhancing the value of the aquatic landscape through encouraging natural processes, with benefits for wildlife and people”.