A major land use in the Tyne Catchment is commercial coniferous forestry. The majority of the forestry in the catchment is found in Kielder Forest but with sizeable forests in Chopwell and Slaley and numerous small blocks. Like all intensive land uses, forestry can have a large impact on the river system through input of fine sediments, changes in pH and flow, and creating heavy shade on watercourses. These problems were particularly pronounced in the first rotation of forest planting which were heavily drained and planted in large blocks down to the edge of watercourses.
In 1988 the first edition of the UK Forest Standards – Forest and Water Guidelines was published. It is now in its fifth edition. The Guidelines set out a series of legal and good practice requirements that apply to both public and privately owned forests. The guidelines and new technology and ideas have been responsible for a marked improvement in the water quality in rivers. This has been achieved by incorporating large buffer strips between commercial forest and watercourses, the planting of broadleaves along watercourses and decreasing the amount of drainage.
We are working with the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency to further improve the ecological quality of the watercourses than run through Kielder Forest. The project has involved detailed study of catchments that are not reaching good ecological status under the EU’s Water Framework Directive. Walkover surveys as well as chemical and biological monitoring have brought up a number of point issues that the Forestry Commission is currently addressing. Tyne Rivers Trust is also looking at improving the way water is managed in forestry blocks and drainage networks by working directly with the Forestry Commission’s foresters and engineers.