Simon Stebbings: Chalk stream Invertebrates & Riverfly Monitoring

Simon Stebbings, Cooordinator of Chilterns, Herts & Middlesex Riverfly Hub, talks about chalk stream invertebrates and riverfly monitoring.

The health of a river is dependent on many factors, three primary ones being water quality, habitat and flow. Riverfly populations reflect the health of our rivers and still waters. They are sensitive indicators of water quality and commonly referred to as the rivers’ ‘canary’.

Reported apparent declines in riverfly numbers are of increasing concern whilst the factors that may cause a detrimental impact to riverfly populations are numerous, and include pollution. Small and large scale incidents can happen at any time, spelling disaster for river wildlife. Regular monitoring is the best way of identifying these early-on and enabling a rapid response.

The Angler’s Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) is a national scheme, launched by the Riverfly Partnership in 2007. It is used as a “neighbourhood watch” for rivers across the UK. It helps rivers to be monitored more widely, and more often than is possible by the Environment Agency alone.

Local people and groups are trained on how to monitor their river and report pollution incidents, so they can be better protected. It involves sampling the river each month, counting eight pollution-sensitive invertebrate groups, and reporting a pollution incident if they fail to meet an agreed limit.

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