The River Habitat Survey

Field-based method designed for consistent application by non-experts, to assess physical structure of stream, primarily for ecological and riverine-habitat purposes. The ability of RHS to inform or replace assessment methods used in other European countries has been investigated (Erba, et al. 2006; Raven, et al. 2002).  The RHS conforms to the river classification and assessment requirements set forth by the European Water Framework Directive.


  • Determine catchment characteristics
  • identify attributes of high quality ‘benchmark’ streams
  • identifying species-habitat relationships
  • provide input to environmental impact assessments

Field Assessment:

Includes input data of: Valley Form, Fluvial Features (riffles, pools, point bars), Artificial Features, Bank and Channel Material Bank and Channel Modification

Bank and Channel Features, Flow Type, Adjacent Land Use, Adjacent Land Cover – detailed, Channel Vegetation, Bank Profile, Channel Dimensions:

(Banktop height, Bankfull height, Water Depth, Channel width, Bankfull width), Vegetation choking of channel, Special Features, Overall Characteristics

Survey Outputs:

  • Habitat Quality Score
  • Modification Score
  • Habitat Quality Assessment Scheme

Erba, Stefania, Buffagni, Andrea, Holmes, Nigel, O'Hare, Mattie, Scarlett, Peter, Stenico, Alberta, 2006. Preliminary testing of River Habitat Survey features for the aims of the WFD hydro-morphological assessment: an overview from the STAR Project. Hydrobiologia, 566(1), 281-296

Fox, P. J. A., M. Naura, and P. Scarlett. 1998. An account of the derivation and testing of a standard field method, River Habitat Survey. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 8(4), 455-475

Furse, M. T., 2006. The ecological status of European rivers evaluation and intercalibration of assessment methods.

Raven, P. J., P. J. Boon, F. H. Dawson, and A. J. D. Ferguson. 1998. Towards an integrated approach to classifying and evaluating rivers in the UK. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 8(4), 383-393

Raven, P. J., N. T. H. Holmes, P. Charrier, F. H. Dawson, M. Naura, and P. J. Boon. 2002. Towards a harmonized approach for hydromorphological assessment of rivers in Europe: a qualitative comparison of three survey methods. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 12(4), 405-424

Szoszkiewicz, Krzysztof, Buffagni, Andrea, Davy-Bowker, John, Lesny, Jacek, Chojnicki, Bogdan, Zbierska, Janina, Staniszewski, Ryszard, Zgola, Tomasz, 2006. Occurrence and variability of River Habitat Survey features across Europe and the consequences for data collection and evaluation. Hydrobiologia, 566(1), 267-280

The RHS Team, 2003. River Habitat Survey in Britain and Ireland: Field Survey Guidance Manual, 2003 version.