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Our Rivers campaign launches survey to identify best UK rivers for wildlife

By John Dean - 12 Jul 2011 12:33:1 GMT
Our Rivers campaign launches survey to identify best UK rivers for wildlife

A survey has been launched to identify the best rivers in the UK for wildlife, with support coming from a wide range of environmentalists including television broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The Our Rivers campaign, run by WWF, the RSPB, the Angling Trust and the Salmon & Trout Association, aims to assess the damage done to wildlife by the poor state of many rivers.

According to the organisations, Environment Agency figures say that 70% of UK rivers are in poor health. Concerns include poor water quality and loss of bankside habitat to development.

The idea of the survey is to persuade people to record the flora and fauna that they see along their local rivers. This year's survey results will feed into the second annual awards from the Our Rivers campaign, which last year saw the River Wye selected as the UK's best and the Thames as the least popular.

Jack Clarke, from the Our Rivers campaign, said: "Many of us have a river close to our homes where we love to walk, fish or simply sit and reflect. We're hoping we can encourage a national army of river wildlife spotters to tell us what they've seen."

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has cited the River Axe, which runs close to his River Cottage headquarters in Dorset, as an example of a healthy river.

He said: "I love the Axe, and particularly the Axe estuary. It's such a pretty little river, and full of bounty. The sea trout, which I can never catch. The samphire, which fortunately has nowhere to run and hide. And the wonderful wading birds - godwits, egrets and curlew - that strut and stab along the muddy flanks of the estuary."

The survey is being run through the website www.ourrivers.org.uk and comes at a time when there is growing concern for species including the water vole. Once plentiful, the creature is now facing extinction in the UK because of factors including predation by mink.

Other species causing concern are the native white-clawed crayfish, another victim of an introduced predator, this time the much larger American signal crayfish.

On the plus side, the otter has come back from the brink of extinction in the post-war years to be present on many rivers and streams throughout the UK, helped by improving water quality.

Top Image: The valley of the river Wye, Wales England border © David Hughes