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

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 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...
    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 ...
    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...
    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...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...

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...

Water

Ongoing restoration projects are breathing new life into Florida’s Everglades

Cities

Despite protests, an experimental pedestrianisation system is proving to be…

Mapping

National Archives map historian, Rose Mitchell, highlights some of the…

Water

An expedition into the Jordanian desert is helping teachers and…

Mountains

Trivia fans take note, Mount Hope in the British Antarctic…

Water

An enormous hydropower development in Ethiopia is expected to put…

Mapping

From nuclear warnings to whether your favourite band will ‘make…

Mapping

New maps of global reptile distribution reveal significant gaps in…

Forests

Indigenous conservation schemes in Peru can be more effective than…

Mapping

How are the EU member nations faring in the fight…

Mapping

Violence against women violates human rights, and the lack of…

Cities

Deadly heat waves could become more frequent in cities thanks…

Mapping

These 13 poignant infographics are in the running for the…

Mapping

Sometimes referred to as the fourth dimension, time has a…

Forests

A global, citizen-led carbon sequestration scheme is aiming to combat…

Mountains

Among the Himalaya region, which along with most of the…

Cities

Beijing looks set to welcome to its streets an innovative…

Cities

The next step towards declaring London a National Park City…

Mapping

The spatial distribution of healthcare workers globally tells us a…

Forests

After an ‘unprecedented’ surge northwards into New Jersey, New York…