The Silent Killer of UK Rivers: new study shows English rivers exhibiting increased chemical stress and declining invertebrate diversity - Buglife

WildFish, RSPB, Buglife and The Pesticide Collaboration have released a new report: “Chemical Pollution: The Silent Killer of UK Rivers”.

Using invertebrate data from the WildFish 2021 Riverfly Census, a survey of twelve English rivers found the number of sites assigned a “poor” or “bad” score more than doubled compared to previous years.

The results showed a decline in the diversity of riverflies, aquatic invertebrates that are essential to a healthy ecosystem.

During drought conditions, low water levels will reduce the dilution of chemicals and exacerbate the impact of chemical pollution on rivers ecosystems even further.

The report analyses, in greater detail, the impact chemical pollution is having on the twelve English rivers and their aquatic wildlife.

“Chemical Pollution: The Silent Killer of UK Rivers” uses Species at Risk (SPEAR) scores (stress scores calculated from the diversity and abundance of invertebrates present in a river) generated from the Riverfly Census. The findings show that in autumn 2021, the number of sites achieving ‘poor’ or ‘bad’ on the chemical stress scale was considerably greater than in 2015, 2016 and 2017. This suggests chemical pollution, from sources such as agricultural pesticides and pharmaceuticals, is getting worse.

In spring and autumn of 2021, the mean number of riverfly species (specifically mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies) identified was significantly fewer than previous years. In autumn 2021 the number was 10, compared to 13 in autumn 2016.

The report concludes that stopping pollution at source is imperative, and the upcoming Chemicals Strategy is an opportunity for Government to reduce our reliance on chemicals and ensure sufficient enforcement of regulation.

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Posted On: 18/08/2022

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