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Influencing policy on river conservation and management

Our approaches to analysing and modelling water systems have led to a world-leading discovery showing change on upland river ecosystems.

Steve Ormerod and Ed Milliband
Steve Ormerod and Ed Milliband

In the past river investigations were descriptive, characterised by uncertainty and unable to support evidence-based management at sufficiently realistic scales.

The river catchment studies developed by Prof Ormerod and colleagues have had pivotal effects on the development of ecological, economic and policy decision-making tools in this sector.

Mike Clarke CEO RSPB

Pioneering research

Researchers from the School of Biosciences, led by Professor Steve Ormerod, pioneered a distinct research paradigm in which stratified surveys, experiments and models were applied to river catchments to investigate large-scale factors affecting river organisms and ecological functions.

Professor Ormerod and his team investigated claims that acid rain was causing widespread changes in the chemistry and ecology of up land European rivers. Their research revealed that ecological problems were greatest where base-poor rivers drained plantation forest, leading to the delivery of the world's first data revealing change effects on upland river ecosystems.

Influencing policy and practice

The research undertaken  by Professor Ormerod and his team of researchers has influenced the policy-making and advocacy activities of a range of government bodies and major NGOs.

Professor Ormerod's research was applied directly to the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) the first benefit analysis of the UK's natural environment. Specific conclusions of the NEA, based on the research included:

  • Freshwater ecosystems were critical to human wellbeing, but undervalued.
  • Ecosystem management has emphasised resource production (e.g. food, forests) to the detriment of less tangible services downstream (e.g. polluted water).
  • Freshwater ecosystems and their catchments should be restored and managed positively to maximise ecosystem service benefits.

Meet our experts

Professor Steve Ormerod

Professor Steve Ormerod


+44 (0)29 2087 5871

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