Quantock streams: More than just water

One morning a month I can be found with my colleague Mike Laver on the banks of one of three streams on the East side of the Quantocks, either standing in the stream wielding an orange net or peering into white spoons and trays.  We survey, on behalf of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), the streams in Triscombe, Halsway Combe and Paradise Combe.  We are volunteers, given the grand title ‘citizen scientists’, who collect scientifically robust data to assess the health of the streams and count the amazing freshwater invertebrates that live unseen by the majority of people.

WWT forward our results to The Riverfly Partnership who collate the information from hundreds of volunteers ranging from anglers, conservationists and entomologists to scientists and water course managers working together to ascertain the water quality of our streams and rivers from the headwaters to lower reaches.

It is a real delight to be able to identify the environmentally sensitive species found in our streams. They all have their own unique lifestyles, and there is a direct link between the species found in our streams and the surrounding land. It would be virtually impossible to gather the data needed without volunteers but, on a personal level, it really is a great way of getting very close to nature and being much more aware of seasonal and weather-related changes to our local environment.  It also provides early warning of pollution or the presence of invasive species which can be destructive to our native wildlife.  

On a very practical note, projects that need funding rely on having evidence to justify expenditure and, following remedial work, accurate local records are the key to assessing the effectiveness of actions taken that were designed to improve the environment.

Riverfly provides opportunities for hands-on learning sessions for children through exploration and discovery and bring a deeper level of understanding of our wonderful local environment.  Carrying out surveys needs very little equipment and the very well-designed information packs make identification of invertebrates at the basic level, which is all that is needed, very straightforward.  It would be nice to see more of our streams having a health check on a regular basis. 

Mike Copplestone Oct 2023