Chemical Pollution

The Silent Killer of UK Rivers

The Silent Killer of UK Rivers a report by RSPB, WildFish, Buglife and the Pesticides Collaboration

From the WildFish website

Chemicals feature heavily in our everyday lives. From cleaning products, to medicines and even the food we eat. Using chemicals has a variety of benefits, but when they leak into the environment they can pollute air, soil and water with catastrophic effects. Chemicals can persevere in the environment for weeks, months or even years, and can cause significant harm to wildlife on land, in freshwater and in the sea. 

Chemicals are just one pollutant threatening our freshwater ecosystems. Sewage, plastic, excess nutrients and waste from farmland all contribute to the dire state of our rivers. Environment Agency data from 2020 showed that all English rivers failed to meet overall quality tests for pollution. Not a single river achieved good chemical status, and only 14% of rivers in England achieved good ecological status. 

Chemical Pollution report

Aquatic invertebrates spend most, if not all, of their lives in rivers. Over this time they are directly exposed to the conditions of the water, and often need good water quality to reach maturity. This makes them brilliant indicators of water quality, and so we can learn a lot about a river from how they are faring. 

At Wildfish we recently published the 2021 Riverfly Census results. This is a national survey covering 12 English rivers, monitoring aquatic invertebrates as a way to indicate what pressures our freshwater systems are under. Riverflies in particular are a vitally important part of the freshwater ecosystem, including in their role as food for birds, mammals and fish. Wildfish, RSPB, Buglife and the Pesticide Collaboration have published a report looking at some of this survey data in more detail, to better understand the impact chemical pollution is having on our rivers.

You can read the full report on the WildFish website