New initiative helps to secure a brighter future for the iconic Test and Itchen

28/02/2017

The condition of Hampshire’s renowned chalkstreams will be put under the microscope this year following an agreement between fisheries research charity, Salmon and Trout Conservation UK and the Test and Itchen Association.

Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (S&TC UK) who are continuing their national Riverfly Census across the country this year will be working closely with the Test and Itchen Association, who have agreed to fund the continuation of its scientific surveys on the Test and Itchen chalkstreams in 2017.

This important river survey involves collecting river invertebrate samples at a number of different sites on these two iconic chalk rivers this spring and autumn.  The results, which are analysed down to species level, not only provide a benchmark for future ecological surveys, it also helps to highlight the causes and sources of any damaging pollutants, which can adversely impact on invertebrate species richness and abundance and ultimately the health of these two rivers.

River flies play a vital role in a river’s food chain - lose them, and ultimately other aquatic wildlife, including wild fish, mammals and birds will follow. The S&TC UK’s  Riverfly Census on the Test and Itchen will be a vital step to identify any underlying damaging impacts from sources such as agricultural and road run-off, poorly treated sewage, septic tanks and discharges from watercress and fish farms.

Jeremy Legge, Director of the Test and Itchen Association said, “While S&TC bring a national perspective and an established and respected scientific methodology, the Test and Itchen Association and Wessex Chalk Streams and Rivers Trust bring the local contacts, knowledge and enthusiasm of river owners, fisherman and environmentalists.  We all have a direct stake in the future health of the iconic Hampshire chalkstream environment and the fisheries it supports.

“This combination of national and local interests is a potentially powerful one which S&TC UK will be looking to replicate elsewhere in the country when continuing their Riverfly Census work. For the Test and Itchen Association, it is an opportunity to build the experience and expertise of local volunteer invertebrate monitors to enable them to continue this survey work in the future to professional standards. We can only really look after our rivers if we properly understand the problems that they face.”

Nick Measham, from S&TC UK said, “We are delighted to be working with the Test & Itchen Association and they should be congratulated for their insight and action to ensure the future health of these two rivers.  Our 2015 Riverfly Census, identified that there were only 14 pristine, unimpacted sites out of a total of 120 sites sampled in the survey on rivers across England. Regrettably this earlier survey on the River Test, which is an SSSI (one of our highest conservation classifications) showed that flylife is below that expected of a pristine river with many significant species impoverished and rarer species absent. We will are therefore keen to continue our survey this year to identify how the condition of the river has changed.”

Jeremy Legge continues, “The Test and Itchen Association is delighted to support the continuation of S&TC UK’s work on our two rivers in 2017 as well as extending it to the Meon for the first time. The work on the Meon will be done in conjunction with the Wessex Chalk Streams and Rivers Trust. This detailed analysis of our rivers is a vital step in helping us understand the reasons behind the worrying decline of river flies on our Hampshire chalk streams.  Once the reasons for the decline are properly understood, remedial work can be effectively targeted to help restore our rivers to their former pristine condition.”

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Picture Caption: Pictured: The Bourne Rivulet. picture credit  Simon Cain. The loss of river fly invertebrates such as Blue-Winged Olives is an early warning that our rivers are suffering from the effects of pollution.  A scientific survey by Salmon & Trout Conservation UK and funded by the Test & Itchen Association aims to investigate how the Test and Itchen chalkstreams are faring.