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Bristol Avon WaterBlitz 2017

BART are excited to announce the 2017 Bristol Avon WaterBlitz, a campaign to collect as many water quality samples as possible in one week from the Bristol Avon and its tributaries. Taking place from 10th – 16th June to coincide with the festival of nature, the project will gain an invaluable snapshot of the health of our rivers that will help to direct future conservation efforts.

Thanks to funding from the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Greggs Foundation, BART is working in partnership with FreshWater Watch, a global citizen science programme developed by the environmental NGO, Earthwatch Institute. BART are asking individuals and community groups to take part and help to collect at least 250 water quality samples within the Bristol Avon catchment, including Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and North East Somerset. Participants will use simple colour dip tests to determine the concentration of phosphates and nitrates in the rivers, which are naturally occurring chemicals but can be increased by man-made pollution. In high concentrations these chemicals affect the water quality, degrading river ecosystems and harming the widlife which relies on the river. The data collected during the Bristol Avon WaterBlitz will be used by in Earthwatch research into the state of the world’s freshwater systems and by BART to plan local improvements.

Using the free water quality test is quick and easy to do, and all volunteers have to do is sample their chosen river or stream in the Bristol Avon catchment and upload the results to the Freshwater Watch website. On the website you can compare the water quality in your sample to other sites on an interactive results map.

BART are encouraging people to show us how they’re getting involved during the WaterBlitz week by sharing a picture or video of you sampling on Twitter using #BAWaterBlitz.

To sign up as a monitor, volunteers must register by Friday 2nd June using the the following link:

https://freshwaterwatch.thewaterhub.org/group/bristol-avon-blitz

You will then be sent your free water sampling kit by post. Please contact claire@bristolavonriverstrust.org with any questions.

 

Managing woody debris in rivers

BART regularly receive emails from local community groups who are doing fantastic work around their stretch of river but are unsure of how to deal with woody debris within the channel. Many people are prone to remove it in order to ‘tidy’ rivers, however woody debris is a vital component of our watercourses and its removal can severely degrade their health.

This report gives some fantastic advice on how to manage woody debris:

http://www.therrc.co.uk/MOT/References/WT_Managing_woody_debris.pdf

 

Possible cases for selective removal can include:

  • Debris accumulating on bridges and culverts, potentially resulting in localised flooding
  • For navigation
  • For canoeing

 

If you are a community group or landowner working alongside a river and would like some advice on what you can do to improve habitat and water quality, please get in touch with BART: info@bristolavonriverstrust.org

Eel in the Classroom 2017

Following the huge success of our first Eel in the Classroom project last year, BART have embarked on the even greater challenge of delivering the project in 6 different schools across Bristol, Wiltshire, and Somerset.

The eels are safely in their tank

After being caught by elver fisherman, the elvers (young eels) were donated to UK Glass Eels in Gloucester. From there approximately 100 eels were installed into the tanks in each school. Each class of children will rear the European eels for the term, feeding them every day and learning about all aspects of their lives. At the end of the 5 weeks each school will have a release event, where the children will release the eels back into their local river.

They caused a lot of excitement!

Before the eels were brought into the schools, we had a lot of interesting and inventive guesses from the children as to what creatures would be going into the tanks set up in their classrooms. Ranging from whales to swimming chickens and self-juggling bananas, none of the children guessed that they would be looking after 100 elvers!

Once the elvers were in the tanks we had so many questions from the children, about the life cycle of the eels, where they are from and what they eat. Some of the more interesting questions included can eels talk to each other, and can eels cry? We are yet to find the answers!

European eels are amazing animals

The children will learn all about the fascinating life history of the eel, and the current issues they face causing them to be designated as a critically endangered species. Eels are thought to spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic ocean, before they float in their larval form on ocean currents towards Europe. Once they reach the freshwater estuaries around the coast, they morph into elvers and swim up into rivers where they spend up to 20 years living and feeding. Once they have grown and matured, they swim back to the Sargasso Sea where they lay their eggs.

The number of European eels which reach Europe has decreased by between 90 – 98% since the 1970’s, due to numerous factors all of which are human induced. Things like weirs, tidal gates and dams all act as barriers to migration as the eels swim up-river, and pollution, climate change, overfishing and habitat loss all have a negative impact on eel survival. Hopefully this project will inspire the children to take action for rivers in the future, not just for the survival of eels, but for the health of all wildlife which depends on the river and marine environment.

Lights, camera, action!

We even got a taste of stardom when we were joined by the BBC in St Andrew’s Primary School, Congresbury, who filmed some of the action for their 2017 series on wildlife in the Westcountry.

Thank you to Bristol Water for funding the eels and equipment, and to the Sustainable Eel Group and UK Glass Eels for their support. Watch this space to find out more about how the schools get on with their eels!

Midsomer Norton disussion evening

We had a successful evening in Midsomer Norton  with the Town Council and local community discussing our new Our Wonderful Wellow project. The event in Midsomer Norton Town Hall was arranged to give the community a chance to learn about BART’s plans for conservation work  along the Wellow Brook walk, which will involve planting wildflowers, constructing flow deflecting structures in the river to improve brown trout habitat and running river dipping and water quality sessions with local schools.

Community discussion

Councillor Paul Myers opened the talk, which was also attended by Town Councillor Clive Stiwell and approximately 40 members of the community. The community gave their input and ideas for the river improvements they wanted to see, which included reducing litter and running Himalayan Balsam bashes to control the spread of the plant. Setting up a Friends of the Wellow group was also a popular point of discussion, which had a hugely positive response from the community.

Councillor Paul Myers opening the talk

 

Thanks to Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Postcode Local Trust for funding the Our Wonderful Wellow project.

Chew Magna primary school – river explorers!

Thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Fund Awards for All programme, BART spent the day with some very excited children from Chew Magna Primary School. The children couldn’t wait to get stuck in and find out which invetebrates were hiding beneath the waterline of their local river. Armed with nets and trays, the children learned how to take kick-samples from a small tributary of the River Chew and examined what they had found back in the classroom.

Learning how to take kick samples

 

Hunting for minibeasts

The children found a wealth of invetebrates, including burrowing mayflies, freshwater shrimps and cased caddies flies. They also learnt why it is important to know the range of species within our rivers, as it helps us to measure the health and quality of the river. The children were so excited to find so much life in their local stream! Hopefully this will spark the childrens’ interest in the environment, and encourage them to be the next generation of conservationists!

Using ID guides to identify invetebrates

 

Learning about the importance of healthy rivers

This work is part of a wider project – the Beneath the Waterline: Minibeast Citizen Science Project. As well as providing river dipping sessions all over the Bristol Avon catchment, through this project we will train more people as Riverfly monitors. Riverfly monitors are volunteers who take monthly samples from their local river and identify the invetebrates they find in order to determine river health. This helps to reveal any water quality issues before they become a severe problem. We are hoping to expand our network of volunteers who provide us with such valuable information by regularly monitoring the rivers in the Bristol Avon catchment. For more information about our Riverly monitors please click here.