Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

11-11-2014: Riverfly Monitoring Round Two

Braving the predicted rains on Saturday, volunteers from Kingston Uni and the local community came together to learn how to monitor the state of a river using the wildlife indicators.
All (bar one) of the trainees on the second RMI course at KU
The Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (RMI) is a national scheme for monitoring the health of rivers developed by the Riverfly Partnership. ZSL has secured funding to allow the implementation of this nationally recognised scheme on the Hogsmill River. As part of this scheme, Kingston University students, staff and local community volunteers were training in the RMI monitoring methodology on Saturday 8th November. In exchange for training participants commit to undertaking at least six monitoring visits to their assigned site.

The scheme is important, these simple counts, repeated monthly, can highlight pollution incidents which don’t result in obvious signs such as dead fish or chemically foaming water. This is because the populations of the smallest animals living in the rivers are, nearly always, the ones that are affected first.  

Joe demonstrates kick sampling and cleaning the sample
Joe Pecorelli from ZSL showed the team how to conduct samples and the group got to grips with identifying and separating out the different species before lunch.

Trainees split into three groups to practice sorting species

Bill - one of the KU Middle Mill RMI volunteers, helping trainees

The small upwing larvae shown against the FSC guide used by trainees 

After lunch it was the turn for the trainee’s to get their feet wet (hopefully not literally as I have patched up the waders :)

Agi, Rachelle, Bill, Bernard, Geoff, Peter and Michael sampling near the bridge

The group spilt into three teams, each of which undertook sampling, as the habitat is sampled in proportion to the different micro-habitats in the river (edge habitats, bare gravel, areas with submerged plant growth etc.).

Amanda practising kick sampling while Paul and Bill check for hazzards in the training area 

We had counters on the bank to make sure that the time spent sampling different areas was correct, with extra hands on deck to help people find their balance in the river.

A helping hand as we sample in water slightly deeper then normal with the baffles work utilising our usual RMI site

Joe shows Bernard the way to clean the samples before removing them from the river

Michael taking the river sample for sorting on land

Avishka, John, Amanda and Jirina sorting out their sample
These simple counts, repeated once a month, can build up a picture of what is happening under the surface of our rivers. Changes in the water chemistry are reflected in changes in the abundance and number of different species. 

The data from monitoring the sampling site at Kingston University and other sites along the Hogsmill will feed into the national monitoring scheme. An exciting outcome of the recent training is the potential for two new monitoring sites being adopted by some of the course trainees! 

More importantly, the data collected by students, staff and local community volunteers will be used to monitor the health of our river. Allowing for rapid responses to any apparent pollution incident by the Environment Agency who are partners in this ZSL coordinated RMI programme. Hopefully lead to the environment agency taking action to deal with misconenctions in the Hogsmill River which are a source of pollutants such as detergents from washing machines to the output from toilets! 

Connect Right tells you more about misconnections and how you can check if your property is misconnected.

Sewage fungus entering the river near the Stanley Picker foot bridge - a sign of a misconnection!!
The exciting news was that we found this flat bodied mayfly, just the one, during our training course. This is the first time that this species has been found on the Hogsmill during this scheme. The important thing about this find is that this little critter is one isn’t pollution tolerant.
The fairest of them all? this little critter around the size of two grains of rice, made 16 people very excited on Saturday!
But this makes for a bit of a mystery as the Hogsmill is a compromised river as recently evidenced by project staff working on the baffles project becoming ill due to pollution.  

So is this a species of flat bodied mayfly which is more tolerant of pollution, has this been swept down into our bit of the river from cleaner sites upstream, or could this be evidence of the habitat work at Knights Park starting to make a difference in this area of the river?
The find of the day shows against the guide with some key features highlighted

We have started enquiries with those more in the know about this species and will update you on the progress. 

However it has arrived, it does show that the Hogsmill has the potential to recover to a wonderful river habitat which would benefit all users and lessen the chances of people getting ill when they work in it. 

The biggest hope is that this project can follow the pattern of longer established RMI monitoring schemes on the Wandle and Crane, which have contributed to more misconnections and pollution areas being identified and fixed. This is a slow process which can take time and has taken several years of RMI monitoring and evidence gathering before it has started to pay dividends on other rivers.

A cleaner river would allow more pollution sensitive species, to colonise more of the river, and in greater number – leading to more of us seeing the dance of the mayfly on our rivers an example of another mayfly doing the dance can be found here

The University will continue to facilitate surveys once a month and the data that we generate can be used by students for project work as well as the national monitoring scheme. 

On other river updates:

The baffles project is progressing in leaps but not bounds, as prolonged rains have delayed the works.
The image below show the stones upstream of Stanley Picker Gallery which will change the depth and flow patterns in this area allowing fish to migrate upstream.

A weighty project 
During the RMI course we undertook a quick litter pick in the embankment at Knights Park.

A worrying trend is finding more broken glass in the embankment from bottles which are either being thrown in or left on the wall to get knocked in or blown in. 

Please dispose of your bottles away from the river as the animals on the bank like the ducks, can cut themselves badly on broken glass- as can volunteers who help maintain the bank. 

Female mallard using the bank at Knights Park

On another note, the chicken wire fence was due to come down in mid-winter – but recent high flows and the predicted winter flood flows have changed plans and the fence will come down just before spring 2015. Something the ducks using the site as a perch will be happy about. 

Kings and queen of the chicken-wire castle 

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