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Englefield Estate leads studies on water pollution

Englefield Estate has undertaken the first ever riverfly monitoring session on the River Pang.

The study is to help experts assess water quality and anticipate potential future pollution incidents.

The new project is a partnership between the estate and charity Action for the River Kennet (ARK).

Education and environment officer, Dr Liz Mattison, carries out riverfly monitoring
Education and environment officer, Dr Liz Mattison, carries out riverfly monitoring

The estate worked closely with ARK in 2021 and 2022 in surveying obstacles to eel migration on the Rivers Pang and Kennet.

The estate also facilitates access for ARK’s brown trout nest spotting citizen science project, to record when and where trout are spawning.

Riverfly monitoring is a national initiative overseen by The Riverfly Partnership, where members of the public volunteer to help scientists collect valuable data.

Data from riverfly monitoring is important because species such as caddisfly larvae, mayfly larvae, freshwater shrimp and stonefly larvae are key biological indicators of river health.

Through regular surveys, teams can assess river water quality and get a warning of any otherwise unseen pollution incident.

ARK is known as a ‘Riverfly Hub’ and has been training land managers, river keepers and volunteers at workshops, enabling them to identify and count indicator species of freshwater invertebrates to assess the health of Britain’s river systems.

Liz Mattison, the estate’s education and environment officer, conducted the first monthly monitoring session after attending an accredited Riverfly Monitoring Workshop run by ARK.

Dr Mattison said: "As a land manager with a 2km stretch of the River Pang on the estate, we obviously want to do everything we can to improve the health and water quality of this wonderful chalk stream, and riverfly monitoring is a crucial element of that aim.

"This monitoring session was the first of what will be regular surveys by ARK’s team of volunteers moving forward and we are keen to support them in this very important work."

Education and environment officer, Dr Liz Mattison, examines a sample
Education and environment officer, Dr Liz Mattison, examines a sample

The work proved its worth in July 2013 when ARK riverfly monitoring volunteers discovered a ‘catastrophic pesticide pollution event’ on the River Kennet in Marlborough.

The public were advised not to enter the river and the event sparked extensive research into the impact of river pollution.

The pesticide that caused the pollution was identified as chlorpyrios, which had killed riverfly on a 15-mile stretch of the River Kennet.

Anna Forbes, ARK’s senior project officer and volunteer co-ordinator, oversees the riverfly programme, said: "It proves the value of this kind of long-term monitoring.

"Our trained volunteers are the eyes and ears on the river and are bringing in important data, ensuring we can do everything in our power to protect the health of our rivers.

"Until we trained our volunteers, there was no riverfly monitoring being carried out on the River Pang, but now we can start to establish sites along its course to collect detailed data on health and water quality, as well as detect pollution incidents in the future."

ARK is looking to establish at least six safe access locations along the River Pang to continue riverfly monitoring.

The sites will include one on the stretch of the river which runs through Englefield Estate.

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