Creative Adaptive Solutions for Treescapes of Rivers (CASTOR)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Environment, Education and Development


Critical interventions are required if the UK is to reach its afforestation target of 17% by 2050. The CASTOR project both elucidates and provides solutions for the challenges that will be faced, with a specific focus on riparian landscapes in northern England. Our focus on riparian treescapes as critical pathways to reforestation takes advantage of these as natural confluences, capitalizing on three key opportunities:
1. Extent: there are over 240,000 km of rivers and streams in England, meaning the potential for restoring riparian woodland presents a substantial opportunity for meeting the UK government's goal of 17% tree cover by 2050 coupled with associated increases in carbon storage and sequestration, water quality amelioration, habitat creation and flood prevention.
2. Restoration: although not all rivers will be suitable for reforestation, given the levels of degradation of riparian zones, these habitats present a major opportunity for large-scale environmental restoration and rewilding. A focus on catchment dynamics and connectivity offers a key opportunity for the development of nature-based solutions to ongoing flood risk for an increasing number of communities.
3. Networks for nature recovery: riparian zones are a key ecological component of resilient landscapes. For example, riparian habitats often have greater species richness than adjacent land-uses. Riparian forests have the ability to connect woodland habitats, providing a blueprint for a Nature Recovery Network. These synergistic properties and our integrated approach directly and creatively address the government's 'Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution' highlighting the need for a 'joined-up' approach to land management and nature recovery.
The CASTOR will co-produce knowledge and identify pathways to resilient riparian treescapes by: 1. mapping the potential for riparian treescape expansion in the UK and identifying ecological, historical and socio-economic connections associated with riparian corridors. 2. mapping literary, historical, ecological, and cultural heritage values in the context of expanding/changing treescapes (and perceptions of "wildness"). 3. exploring the use of Social Arts Practice and participatory methods to co-produce knowledge on multi-scalar perceptions, values and motivations towards riparian treescape corridors. 4. critically evaluating financial incentives and opportunities for stakeholders; engaging with land-managers in rural areas. 5. developing alternative scenarios (explored through virtual reality, arts installations, workshops and web-based GIS) related to natural and assisted regeneration (rewilding) of river corridors. 6. developing spatial models (of connectivity, hydrology, species diversity, regeneration stage) to assess the resilience of riparian treescapes, as self-organizing systems, and the landscapes and communities they connect. 7. exploring through engagement with arts practitioners (e.g. creative writing, artists in residence, etc.) the community connections - temporal/spatial - to riparian woodlands.
Our novel interdisciplinary perspectives and technology will deliver: 1) a valuation of riparian treescapes for direct incorporation into the public money for public goods framework; 2) critical examination of socio-hydro-ecological feedbacks to underpin the recovery of degraded riparian landscapes, leveraging rewilding approaches to increase riparian biodiversity and carbon storage; and 3) an emergent vision that aligns long-term cultural values with community perspectives to ensure the future of UK treescapes. These outcomes will invigorate community engagement and recovery of riparian landscapes and ecosystems within a model that will be applicable throughout the UK.


10 25 50
Description STAND 
Organisation Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Sharing of ideas and data. PI on advisory board for STAND
Collaborator Contribution Sharing of ideas and data.
Impact No outcomes to data. Discipline include, geography, ecology, biology, arts/humanities, economics
Start Year 2022
Description Swiss Beavers 
Organisation Federal Office for the Environment
Country Switzerland 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Modelling of land-use impacts of expanding Eurasian beaver populations
Collaborator Contribution Attendance of advisory board by Christof Angst. Data and consultancy (NB funds not directly allocated to CASTOR but to PI's institution).
Impact Spatial-ecological models of beaver distribution and impact (not yet published). Disciplines include, ecology, geomorphology, GIS
Start Year 2020
Description Conference Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference paper on CASTOR as part of symposium on river buffers
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
Description Festival for Climate Action, University of Manchester - Invited Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on woodland creation potential to mitigate climate change impacts
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022