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The charity making life better by water

Floating ecosystems create new homes for wildlife

We’re installing large stretches of floating ecosystems along our canals and rivers to help halt and reverse the UK’s biodiversity crisis.

Volunteers lowering a floating reed bed into the canal

Installing new homes

In the UK, 90% of wetland habitats have been lost in the last 100 years.

This dramatic demise across such a short space of time is largely due to the extreme drainage that's needed to provide land for housing and construction. Throw in unsustainable farming methods and regular flailing of green spaces, and the problem intensifies.

Running through Nottingham city centre, our floating reed bed offers a vast stretch of lush waterside greenery and provides much-needed habitat for a variety of land and water-based species.

Floating reed bed along the Nottingham & Beeston Canal

Attracting the right crowds

On the Nottingham & Beeston canal, staff and volunteers have installed almost 100 square metres of floating reed beds, which is roughly the size of a badminton court.

This wildlife corridor serves as a waterfront B&B for invertebrates and nesting birds. Also drawn to this new eco development are waterfowl such as ducks, as well as bees, and other pollinators, which play a key part in the balance of our biodiversity.

Dragonflies and damselflies start their lives amidst the foliage, whilst below the water, newts, fish and other aquatic species find food and shelter in the roots.

A large male emperor dragonfly with a blue body, green thorax, and bright blue eyes perches on a branch. A large male emperor dragonfly with a blue body, green thorax, and bright blue eyes perches on a branch.

Keeping new homes safe and clean

This reed bed, along with the other floating ecosystems we are adding to our waterways, are special Biomatrix designs which help keep the water in our canals healthy. The 'micro-wilderness' of roots below the surface is the perfect habitat for millions of microorganisms, which help purify the water by eating algae, absorbing carbon and digesting excess nutrients.

Made from recycled, non-toxic materials, multiple layers and flexible areas form a 3D planting space to support a greater plant biodiversity. This allows our ecologists to select the best foliage for the species they have documented in the area and improve population numbers most effectively.

During construction, our teams also install special goose-proof fencing to protect reed dwellers from strong, hungry beaks.

Canal & River Trust workers adding plants to the floating ecosystem on the offside of the canal bank

The need is now

With the continual expansion of housing estates and roads across the UK, habitats are in short and sparse supply. The sounds of wildlife are being replaced with the noise of machinery at an alarming rate. Where vibrant shades of green used to be in abundance, there is now grey concrete and cement.

Our 2,000 miles of canals and rivers act as nature's superhighway for the many species that depend on both land and water.

By installing these floating ecosystems, we can help bring nature back to our towns and cities and encourage biodiversity to thrive again.

Last Edited: 30 May 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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