British urban rivers recovering

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Water
Otters, amongst others, are expected to benefit from Britain's improving aquatic ecosystems Otters, amongst others, are expected to benefit from Britain's improving aquatic ecosystems Shutterstock
01 Jul
2014
Britain’s urban rivers are the cleanest they’ve been for more than 20 years, according to a 21-year study by scientists from Cardiff University

The study, carried out by Dr Ian Vaughan and Professor Steve Ormerod, investigated more than 2,300 rivers, measuring changes in the occurrence and spread of insects, snails and other invertebrates between 1991 and 2011. Of the 78 types of organisms examined, 40 have become more prevalent in English and Welsh rivers, and 19 have declined.

Using data supplied by the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales, the pair also attempted to determine whether water quality, temperature or river flow best explained the changes in invertebrate abundance that they observed. The results indicated that reductions in gross pollution were the most significant factor.

The water in British rivers has warmed by about 1–2°C in recent decades, but the findings suggest that improvements in the control of pollution entering the rivers has offset any damage this may have done to the aquatic ecosystems. ‘Our analysis showed clearly that many British river invertebrates are sensitive to climate,’ Vaughn said. ‘However, it seems that efforts over the past two to three decades to clean up pollution from sewage and other sources have allowed many of these sensitive organisms to expand their range, despite 1–2°C warming trends and several periods of drought.’

‘These results reveal part of a larger pattern in which organisms dependent on cleaner waters, faster flows and high oxygen concentrations have been progressively recolonising Britain’s urban rivers,’ Ormerod added. ‘We need to protect river organisms against climate change effects – and solving other problems such as pollution clearly helps.’

This story was published in the July 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

Target Ovarian Cancer

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Mapping

Where in America can the country's various hate groups be…

Water

The southern US state is sinking twice as fast as…

Cities

An increase in visitors is putting severe strain on Iceland’s…

Cities

Air pollution campaigners hold a disco roadblock, but can it…

Cities

Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality…

Forests

HSBC has requested a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil investigation…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig explores visions of a world made bright by humanity

Forests

The EU has asked the European court to authorise an…

Forests

Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…

Cities

Far from being separate threats, scientists have found links between…

Mountains

Is the official height of Mount Everest accurate?

Mapping

Where in the world is the highest density of languages?…

Cities

The next stage in autonomous vehicles is hoping to transform…

Mapping

Geographical’s resident data cartographer presents a true picture of the…

Water

What impact could an unprecedented incident of ‘river piracy’ have…

Mountains

Norway is to undercut a mountainous peninsula to create the…

Mapping

Benjmain Hennig explores global mortality with maps

Water

Last winter’s cold conditions contributed a further influx of road…

Water

As one of America’s biggest cities, supplying clean drinking water…

Cities

Cape Town’s Foreshore Freeway Bridge has been left unfinished for…