Jonathan Briggs Associates

Canal Ecology: Resources

Canal Ecology: Resources

This is simply a list of canal ecological resources that may be of help to anyone seeking more information on canal ecological issues. It was compiled in 2012/13 following a number of enquiries from consultants, naturalists and students struggling to find information in this area. Many official canal sites (British Waterways/CRT etc) are surprisingly limited in this regard, mostly just promoting wildlife information used in marketing/media promotions (much of which is unreliable and, in ecological terms, of doubtful value) rather than any formal resource.

This listing is NOT comprehensive or up-to-date - it is merely an incomplete compilation from some available resources. It should, despite these shortcomings, give some useful pointers to the issues and possibilities. It is mostly limited to online resources with a few journal papers and other reports too. Those inaccessible online may be obtained through academic libraries or from the report's original commissioners. We have access to most (but not all) of those listed below at Jonathan Briggs Associates so may be able to help in case of difficulty. Suggestions for additional resources are welcome. Email

No copyright infringements are intended and if you own the rights to any items and want them removed, or the link re-directed to another site, do let us know. 

    Papers/articles from Jonathan Briggs Associates

  • 2016: Briggs, Jonathan, Welsh Canals Revisited Natur Cymru 60: 30-35
  • 2012: Briggs, Jonathan, Canals under new management - A review of wildlife value, issues and opportunities,British Wildlife:, 23:314-323
  • 2006: Briggs, Jonathan, The Saga of the Montgomery CanalBritish Wildlife:, 17:401-410
  • 2005: The Canals chapter in the Wetland Restoration Manual (Wildlife Trusts, 2nd Edition 2005).
  • 2004: Briggs, Jonathan, Montgomery Canal; through the lens Natur Cymru 13: 21-27
  • 1999: Smith, Phillip & Briggs, Jonathan, Zander - the hidden invader, British Wildlife:11:2-8
  • 1999: Briggs, Jonathan (Ed) BW's Biodiversity Framework Document (including the 1999 summary document, available here (note this is a 29MB download!)
  • 1998: Ferguson, Cath, Briggs, Jonathan & Willby, Nigel, Floating Water Plantain in Britain - Under-recorded and Overlooked? British Wildlife:9:298-30
  • 1996: Briggs, Jonathan, Canals - Wildlife Value and Restoration Issues, British Wildlife:7:365-77

General canal wildlife studies and accounts

  • Canals under new management - A review of wildlife value, issues and opprtunities, Briggs, J, 2012 ,British Wildlife:, 23:314-323 . 

  • Canals - Wildlife Value and Restoration Issues, Briggs, J, 1996British Wildlife, 7:365-77

  • British Waterways Biodiversity Framework Document ( the original 1999 summary document) Available as a download here (29MB download of a graphics-heavy overview document )

  • Canal ecology and its management Eaton, J.W. (1996). Proceedings of the World Canals Conference, Birmingham 1996. British Waterways, London. Pp. 1-6.

    Technical Guidance and Ecological Classification

  • Canals chapter in the Wetland Restoration Manual, The Wildlife Trusts (RSWT), 2nd Edition 2005

  • Britain’s inland waterways:  Balancing the needs of navigation and aquatic wildlife, IWAC (Inland Waterways Advisory Council), 2008 

  • Development of a system for classifying the ecological potential of UK and Irish canals SNIFFER, 2008,Project WFD61. Scotland & Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research.

  • Guidance on the Classification of Ecological Potential for Heavily Modified Water Bodies and Artificial Water Bodies UKTAG, 2008, Prepared by Royal Haskoning

  • A survey and monitoring protocol for condition assessment of canal SSSIs. Eaton, J.W. & Willby, N.J. 2003 LIFE in UK Rivers Project. EN/EA

  • Common Standards Monitoring Guidance for Canals JNCC March 2005

  • Canal species studies and accounts

    (Studies for specific canals may be listed under the canal headings below )


    The most significant studies of bats and canals have come from the Bats & The Millennium Link (BaTML) project on the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals in Scotland. Various studies are available from the BaTML website including;


      Floating Water Plantain Luronium natans:

    • Floating Water Plantain in Britain - Under-recorded and Overlooked? Ferguson, C, Briggs, J & Willby, N, 1998 British Wildlife 9:298-30

    • A survey and monitoring protocol for floating water plantain Luronium natans in UK freshwater SACs Willby, N.J. & Eaton, J.W. 2002 . LIFE in UK Rivers Project. EN/EA

    • The distribution, ecology and conservation of Luronium natans (L.) Raf. in Britain. Willby, N.J. & Eaton, J.W. (1993) Journal of Aquatic Plant Management 31: 70-76.

    • General aquatic plant

    Methodologies for surveying plant communities in artificial channels Hatcher, D., Eaton, J., Gibson, M. & Leah, R. 1999. Hydrobiologia 415, 87-91.

        • Conservation of aquatic plants in artificial watercourses: are main drains a substitute for vulnerable navigation canals? Goulder, R. (2008) Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18:163-174. 

    • Aquatic plants in nineteenth-century canals and their persistence into the twenty-first century: Yorkshire examples. Goulder, R. (2012) BSBI News 120, 16-


    • Trends among breeding water birds during 1974-2009, along canals in British Waterways ownership Marchant, J, Hulme, J & Noble, D 2010  BTO Research Report 561

    • Fish

    • Zander - the hidden invader Smith, P & Briggs, J, 1999  British Wildlife, 11:2-8 

      Removal of pikeperch (Stizostedion lucioperca) from a British canal as a management technique to reduce impact on prey fish populations Smith, P.A., Leah, R.T. & Eaton, J.W. (1996) Annales Zoologici Fennici 33: 537-545.

      A review of the current knowledge on the introduction, ecology and management of zander, (Stizostedion lucioperca) in the UK. Smith, P.A., Leah, R.T. & Eaton, J.W. (1997) In: Stocking and Introduction of Fish, ed. I.G. Cowx. Blackwell Science, Oxford. Pp. 209-224.  

      Fish community structure and management in navigated British canals. Pygott, J., O’Hara, K. and Eaton, J.W. (1990). European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission, Symposium at Goteborg (Sweden) l988. Pp. 547-557.

    • Specific canal studies, accounts and management reports

      There are numerous canal ecological studies, though most of the detailed ones (i.e those effectively covering more than than protected species, invasive species and basic habitat information) relate to restoration projects. The following list is, therefore, rather biased to canals subject to recent, or significant future, restoration works.

      Montgomery Canal

    • The Saga of the Montgomery Canal, Briggs, J, 2006, British Wildlife, 17:401-410

      Plant Conservation in the Restoration of the Montgomery Canal to Navigation Willby, N.J. & Eaton, J.W. 2002 Research Contract: Interreg IIc for British Waterways.

      Life Cycles of Aquatic Mcrophytes in the Montgomery Canal: Guidance on Conservation of seven notable species Eaton, J.W., Hatton, K.J. & Willby, N.J.2004

      Sustainable channel design in the restoration of the Montgomery Canal Eaton, J.W. & Willby, N.J. 2006. Report to British Waterways.

    • Basingstoke Canal

    • Basingstoke Canal Conservation Management PlanBasingstoke Canal Authority, 2008

      Anthropogenic pressure on a Molluscan–Trematode community over a long-term period in the Basingstoke Canal, and its implications for Ecosystem Health.  Morley, N & Lewis, J, 2007 EcoHealth 3, 269–280

      The Basingstoke Canal SSSI: analysis of 1988-1998 ecological data and recommendations for future management and monitoring James, C.S. & Eaton, J.W. 1999. University of Liverpool for Basingstoke Canal Authority.

    • Pocklington, Leven & Driffield Canals
    • A survey of the aquatic flora of the Pocklington Canal, Yorkshire, Tolhurst, S.A.. 1986. Edited by H.E.Stace and M.A.Palmer. Contract Survey No. 4, Nature Conservancy Council, Peterborough.

      A survey of the aquatic flora of the Pocklington Canal 1990: a comparison with the NCC survey of 1986, Head, R.M. 1991. Edited by C.E.Tandy, Environmental and Scientific Services, British Waterways, Gloucester. 62pp.

      Aquatic plants in the Pocklington and Driffield canals with regard to the potential extension of navigation. Goulder, R. (2003) The Naturalist 128: 129-146.

      Aquatic plants in the Leven Canal, East Yorkshire: does the waterway continue to be an important site for botanical conservation? Goulder, R. (2006) The Naturalist 131: 77-82.

      Forth & Clyde and Union Canals
      see BaTML studies under Bats above.

      Kennet & Avon Canal

    • The Kennet & Avon Canal restoration from a water vole’s perspective Dijksterhuis, O & Phillips,V 2002.  IEEM Bulletin 35

      Sewage effluent clean-up reduces phosphorus but not phytoplankton in lowland chalk stream impacted by water mixing from adjacent canal Neal, C et al 2010 Science of the Total Environment 408: 5306–5316

    • Liverpool/Stirling University Studies

      (studies based on various PhD and other research projects on canals across the UK and Ireland)

      Willby, N.J. (2007) Managing invasive aquatic plants: problems and prospects. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 17:659-665

      Willby, N.J. Pygott, J.R. & Eaton, J.W. (2001) Inter-relationships between standing crop, biodiversity and trait attributes of aquatic vegetation in artificial waterways. Freshwater Biology 43: 43-74

      Willby, N, Pygott, J, Eaton,J 2001 Inter-relationships between standing crop, biodiversity and trait attributes of aquatic vegetation in artificial waterways Freshwater Biology: 46, 883-902

      Harris, C.J. 1988. Plant Community Change in the Montgomeryshire Canal in Relation to Succession Theory. PhD Thesis, University of Liverpool.

      Hatcher, D.R. 2000. Sustainable Nature Conservation in Canals Ph.D. Thesis, University of Liverpool.

      Murphy, K.J., Willby, N.J. and Eaton, J.W. (1995). Ecological impacts and management of boat traffic on navigable inland waterways. In : The Ecological Basis for River Management, eds. D.M. Harper and A.J.D. Ferguson. Wiley, Chichester. Pp. 427-442.

      Willby, N.J. & Eaton, J.W. (1996) Backwater habitats and their role in nature conservation on navigable waterways. Hydrobiologia 340: 333-338.