What can wet woodlands do for our urban environment?
In June 2016, as part of the Natural Course project, City of Trees created a wet woodland in the heart of Salford to help improve the failing water quality of the Worsley Brook. A year on and the wet woodland is now thriving with greenery and wildlife is returning to the area.
Just metres from the M60, the former council tree nursery, known as the Cleavleys Nursery, was feeling the strain from the diffuse pollution running off from the motorway into the nearby brook. The discharge from the motorway, combined with runoff from agricultural land upstream was running directly into a tributary of Worsley Brook, contributing to WFD ‘failure’ on the basis of sediment inputs and ammonia levels.
Wet woodlands are an important part of urban ecosystems and create vital wildlife habitats. Even dead wood associated with water provides a specialised habitat, not found in dry woodlands. These habitats support craneflies and other insects, creating an ideal food source for bats and other priority species, such as willow tit. The space itself can also be socially important, particularly in urban areas, providing recreational opportunities and human connections to the natural world.
It is believed that the green infrastructure within the wet woodland will help slow the flow of the water, allowing deposition of metals and sediments, and allowing more time for attenuation of pollutants by biodegradation, before running into the brook. By enabling space for streams and brooks to meander through, wet woodlands can also play an important role in reducing the risk of flooding and drought.
Data collected from this wet woodland over time will be used as an example of how wet woodlands can help alleviate pollutant load and flood risk in other urban areas of the UK.
The site continues to be monitored by the University of Salford and volunteers are playing a part in removing invasive species from the area to help revegetate the bare soil and provide new habitats.