River Char Community Project Clean, Revive, Restore Q&A from 17th January
Is foam in the river as sign of pollution? (asked by James Ashdown)
The answer (just summarised here) is that there are all kinds of foam - some naturally occurring after rain, and depending on the local soil, and others caused by run-off from roads and fields and overspill from septic tanks. There's a great link here that helps to explain the situation. We hope to cover this in more detail at a future event.
Regarding engagement, could it be important to recruit from the large volume of foot-traffic at Charmouth beach? (especially if they are made aware of sewage issues!). Similarly, could involving SAS through the Charmouth Surfing community gain useful - possibly younger - volunteers, given SAS are keen on whole-catchment plans to help clean the seas up? (asked by Bill Shelton)
The project is keen to involve younger people and as many people as possible along the length of the river. Currently, funding has been found for the area of the river that falls within the boundaries of Char Valley Parish Council. Ian Rees of Dorset AONB will be looking to get additional funding next year (from April 2022) and we hope to be able to extend the project, in due course, to cover the whole river catchment (see the map on the right).
What can supporters higher up in the catchment do to support the initiative? how can we get more of the catchment involved? to succeed do we need to start at the source? (asked by Nick R) The answer is really as above.
I have a question for Ian about water quality. Did the data collection capture sporadic pollution events, such as slurry runoff or spills? (asked by Owen Day) Pollution measuring devices can capture this data, but they are expensive and not as helpful as might be imagined. In fact, regular monitoring reveals changes over time and any serious pollution incidents (which have have killed fish or seriously disrupted the river ecology) will be registered by changes in the numbers and types of species recorded during intermittent data collection. The riverfly monitoring scheme that will be introduced during 2022 will help in this way with monitoring all pollution events.
Wootton Fitzpaine sits at the bottom of a steep valley with streams running down from Monkton Wylde and Lamberts Castle. Both are subject to potentially damaging flash floods when we have the increasingly frequent heavy storms with over 25mm of rain falling in an hour. These threaten to overwhelm roads, stream banks, and drains. Wouldn't it be sensible to recolonise these valleys with beavers who would create leaky dams that would slow down the flow of water and encourage the insects that feed scarce invertebrates and insect-eating birds? (asked by Christopher Roper)
While beavers are very popular with many members of the public, reintroducing them is a complex issue. Some landowners and farmers see them as a mixed blessing and they can travel up to 40 miles, making it impossible to contain them in one small valley.
What wildlife (particularly fish and mammals) is currently 'missing' from the Char and what would need to be done to facilitate its return? (asked by Nick Ziebland)
There are a few creatures that seem to be missing (like water voles) but it's hard to say for sure. Otters and kingfishers have been seen, trout live in the river... the issue is not so much the complete absence of these species, but their rarity. We want to improve the condition of the river so that more plant and animal species can be found there in much greater numbers.
I was disturbed to learn just recently that my dog's flea and tick collar was contributing to pollution in the River Char. Research at the University of Sussex shows that the neonicotinoid insecticides in the flea treatments and collars used on most of Britain’s dogs and cats are responsible for very high levels of pollution in British rivers – seriously threatening river insects and the fish, birds and amphibians that eat those insects. “The research found fipronil in 99% of samples from 20 rivers and the average level of one particularly toxic breakdown product of the pesticide was 38 times above the safety limit. Fipronil and another nerve agent called imidacloprid that was found in the rivers have been banned from use on farms for some years.” (The Guardian, 17 Nov 2020) How can we hope to address this particular threat to wildlife in the River Char? (asked by Sandra Reeve)