Restoring natural function to our rivers, streams and lakes involves a range of actions, including controlling pollution, abstraction and non-native species, removing physical modifications, and re-establishing natural riparian vegetation (including trees). Such restoration not only generates high quality aquatic and wetland habitat mosaics for our native wildlife, it also helps with downstream water quality, resilience of water supplies and flood risk management.

Principles for restoring natural function and making the most of the opportunities that exist are explained in the freshwater and wetland habitat narrative and summarised in biodiversity guidance developed for the Water Framework Directive Catchment-Based (CaBA) initiative operating in England.

A new facility has been developed on the data portal to allow local partnerships to add their priorities for restoring natural river, stream and lake function, so that we can build up a locally relevant national map of restoration priorities. This will help generate strategic support for relevant local projects, through the new Nature Strategy that Defra is developing to succeed Biodiversity 2020 and within the Water Framework Directive river basin management planning process.

Practical information on restoring natural function to freshwater habitats is available from a range of sources including the River Restoration Centre, the Aquatic Restoration Partnership and the Freshwater Habitats Trust.

You can also get involved in practical restoration works in your area. A range of organisations coordinate volunteer effort on freshwater sites, including the Wildlife Trusts, the Rivers Trusts and the National Trust. Go to their websites to find out about projects in your local area. You can find out more about some local initiatives here.