The Modular River Survey

JANUARY 2020 INDEX UPDATE: As promised over the last 12 months, the MoRPh indices previously referred to as ‘new’ are now the only ones displayed. To accompany this, the provisional MultiMoRPh indices used to date, have been adjusted to reflect the computations and mapping colours for the now-revised MoRPh indices. Most of these adjustments are very minor. However, index 12 is renamed Riparian vegetation structural complexity and has a revised computation to align it with MoRPh index 11. Also, because MultiMoRPh indices 10, 11, 13 and 14 were all displaying very small numerical ranges, these ranges have been expanded to improve visual discrimination between MultiMoRPh sites. Finally, because the cover of non-native invasive plant species is often quite small, an additional MultiMoRPh index Number of non-native invasive plant species (index 16) presents the number of species present up to a maximum of 6 (Himalayan balsam, Giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed, Floating pennywort plus up to 2 locally important species). For full details of computations of all MoRPh and MultiMoRPh indices, download the relevant documents.

Assessing the quality of physical habitat and functioning of river systems is vital for making sure that their management can sustain a healthy aquatic environment for our water dependent wildlife as well as providing fresh water and flood protection for our communities.

The Modular River Survey – or ModRS – is a new way for river enthusiasts and citizen scientists to get involved with recording and assessing physical habitat and hydromorphological functioning in their local rivers and streams.

Using a geomorphological approach, ModRS provides three ways to get involved:

1. Modular River Physical (MoRPh) survey

A habitat-scale assessment that characterises the local physical structure of a river channel and its margins relevant to ecological indicators such as river fly (macroinvertebrates), fish or aquatic plants (macrophytes). The survey is typically conducted over a river length of 10 to 40m. Data are entered into the MoRPh database by trained surveyors via a log-in. The value of 14 indicators extracted from the survey data can then be mapped and downloaded from the database along with the raw data.

2. MultiMoRPh survey

A sequence of 10 or more adjacent MoRPh surveys giving a more comprehensive audit of river habitats and allow characterisation of the way a river and its margins are adjusting to local controlling factors and recent events over a river sub-reach of 100 to 400m in length. MultiMoRPh subreaches (those with 10 contiguous MoRPh modules with identical River, Reach and Subreach names, with modules numbered 1 to 10 from upstream to downstream and with all MoRPh surveys collected within a 48 hour period) are automatically extracted from the MoRPh data base and are mapped using a choice of sub-reach scale MultiMoRPh indicators.

COMING SOON: Additional MultiMoRPh indicators

3. HydroMoRPh survey

A reach-scale (e.g. 1 to 10 km) assessment using aerial images (air photos, maps, remote sensing) and the outputs of MoRPh and Multi-MoRPh surveys to characterise changing pressures within a river reach and changes in river form and structure at the reach scale and over an extended period of time (e.g. 50+ years) in response to historic events.

COMING SOON: information on how to combine MoRPh and Multi-MoRPh outputs with an historical assessment of changing pressures and responses to identify the degree and trajectory of historical (and potential future) reach-scale changes and their likely causes  

ModRS outputs will be of interest to anyone working within catchment partnerships or local groups with an interest in river monitoring and assessment. Records are stored in the ModRS database with outputs visible on catchment maps on this website.

Details of Modular River Survey training are available on the Training page.

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