Six new floating islands have been installed at Brent Reservoir to provide vital habitat for birds visiting from as far a field as Africa.
The work took place today (Friday, September 26) and is being led by ecologists from the Canal & River Trust and frog environmental, as well as volunteers from the Welsh Harp Conservation Group, Welsh Harp Sailing Club and the Phoenix Canoe Club.
The islands, known as Biohavens, mimic the environmental benefits of wetlands in the natural world, providing a healthy habitat for the whole aquatic food chain, which is crucial in this urban dominated landscape.
Ecologist at Canal & River Trust, Leela O’Dea said: “The reservoir is an urban oasis that is phenomenally important for biodiversity not only in Brent, but across London. It acts like a Heathrow airport for birds, such as common terns, which arrive here in April from their wintering grounds in southern and western Africa.
"The islands will provide additional nesting and feeding spots for them while they are here. We delighted to be getting this project underway with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers. It is the first of a number we hope to complete in the coming years to improve this vital SSSI, making it a haven for wildlife and the local community alike.”
The vegetation creates important nesting areas and feeding opportunities for insects and water birds. The roots below the waterline of the islands supply shelter and a rich food source to fish, which in turn feed the water birds on site.
Brent Reservoir in Wembely is a rare Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), it is a hotbed for breeding wetland birds, such as great crested grebe and common tern.
The reservoir also provides an exceptionally important overwintering site for migratory birds including smew, pochard and gadwell.
Richard Haine of frog environmental explains: “BioHaven represents the next generation of floating wetlands. By copying nature the islands robust structure is perfect for plant growth or to host gravel beds and you would be forgiven to think that this is where the wildlife benefit the most. However, underwater billions of natural microscopic organisms cling to the surface of the highly complex structure to form a biofilm. It is this biofilm that kick starts the food chain providing food for zooplankton, micro and macro invertebrates like dragonfly nymphs and snails, and further up the chain, food for fish. The plant roots and microbes act together to break down harmful pollutants such as phosphate, nitrate and heavy metals to naturally cleanse the water whilst providing this amazing wetland habitat."
Over 5,000 BioHavens have already been successfully installed in lakes, reservoirs, docks, rivers and estuaries across the world, including Disneyland.
For more information about Brent Reservoir and volunteering with the Canal & River Trust visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/