• artificial structures;
  • habitat creation;
  • River Thames;
  • river walls;
  • urban river


Urban rivers have often experienced substantial engineering modification and consequently are highly degraded aquatic ecosystems with minimal riparian habitat. Habitat restoration and improvement efforts are needed within urban rivers to support ecological communities and increase ecosystem integrity. Most river restoration techniques are not feasible within large urban rivers, and so there is a need to develop novel methodologies. Artificial structures such as river walls can function as habitat for plant and invertebrate species in urban rivers, and in some cases can be more diverse than remnant habitat. Along the River Thames through central London, plant species richness was found to be significantly higher on river walls than intertidal foreshore, which represents the only remnant habitat for riparian species. Both this survey and other studies have suggested that the physical and environmental characteristics of river walls are likely to influence their capacity to function as ecological habitat, for example, walls composed of more complex construction materials (brick and boulders) being more diverse than simpler structures (concrete and sheet piling). The opportunity exists to use river walls and other artificial structures (e.g., jetties) to improve habitat along urban rivers by installing walls which are designed to be more complex, or by adding modifications to existing walls. Some trial modifications, such as the addition of wall ledges and timber fenders to sheet piling, have been installed at Deptford Creek along the River Thames, and have so far greatly supported the colonization and development of plant communities. The restoration possibilities of such modifications should be considered, and further development and rigorous testing of installations is required in urban rivers to make sound restoration recommendations.