Riverfly Census

Organisation: Salmon and Trout Conservation

Location: National

Type: Research

Link: Visit Website

In 2015, the Salmon and Trout Conservation launched the Riverfly Census to collect high resolution, scientifically robust data about the state of our rivers and the pressures facing them.

River insects spend the majority of their lives in the water as nymphs, making them brilliant indicators of river health. their continuous exposure to water makes examining them much more informative than, for instance, government agency once a month spot chemical samples.

59% of UK insect species have been lost since 1970

Loss of insects has become an issue of international concern, and globally, aquatic insects are faring the worst, with 33% of species threatened compared to 28% of terrestrial taxa.

Closer to home, over 30 years of monitoring on the River Tywi in Wales revealed that freshwater invertebrates are becoming extinct twice as fast as any other ecosystem.


Key findings

  • Overall the analysis revealed that 46% of the Autumn samples failed the proposed WFD standard for chemicals
  • The 3 main pressures impacting the 12 rivers tested are chemicals, sediments and phosphates.
  • Wensum and Welland were ranked the worst for water quality.
  • 100% of the chalk streams sampled exhibited concerning nutrient stress at one or more sites.
  • 58% of census rivers indicated concerning pressure from sediment at 3 or more of their sampled sites.

SmartRivers - Next steps

SmartRivers is taking the census methodology national by training volunteers to sample and analyse river invertebrates to species-level.

SmartRivers will enable volunteers, supported by a national training scheme, training videos, an invertebrate identification app and support programmes, to monitor the water quality in their rivers to a near-professional standard.

Volunteer sampling is underpinned by the collection of an initial solid scientific benchmark by a professional sampler, which adds to confidence to detecting improvement or deterioration in water quality.

If you want to get involved visit www.salmon-trout.org/smart-rivers or email Lauren at smartrivers@salmon-trout.org.

If your group wants to get involved, follow the link below for some information on SmartRivers framework and details on some funding available to help you take this forward.

Photo credit: Don Stazicker

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