Saving the small things that manage our water

Thursday 24th September 2015

Today on World River’s Day, Buglife are launching a strategy for freshwater invertebrates. The charity has long championed the small things that run the planet but are now turning the focus on the often forgotten invertebrates that live in our freshwaters.

“Freshwater teems with wildlife and is vital to life on Earth, including human life. Rivers, streams, ditches, springs, seepages, ponds and lakes are all extremely important, but with the development of agriculture, human settlements and industry, they are being lost, damaged or polluted. There is a great need to preserve what we have, restore what we have lost and create new freshwater habitats.” Commented Craig Macadam, Buglife’s Director of Conservation.

Over 3,800 invertebrate species in the UK spend at least part of their lifecycle in freshwater. They play a vital role in maintaining clean water; they help to break down and filter organic matter and provide a food source for fish, birds and mammals. Their presence is the standard indicator of the health of the habitat they live in.

The strategy highlights eight principles required to save and sustain freshwater invertebrates and their habitats:

·         The use of peat in horticulture destroys wildlife, it is a disgrace and must halt

·         Aquatic invertebrates should be more widely understood, cherished and properly valued for the services they provide

·         Reducing pollution and improving the cleanliness of water is essential to healthy aquatic ecosystems

·         Biosecurity, eradication and mitigation measures must be improved because of the extreme vulnerability of freshwater species and habitats to damage from invasive non-native species

·         Climate change is an urgent threat to aquatic ecosystems and actions to make them more resilient must be implemented now

·         Efforts to conserve aquatic habitats have focussed on rivers and lakes, but most invertebrate biodiversity lives in small, marginal and dynamic water bodies, these are much more fragile and require improved protection from damage

·         Freshwater invertebrate populations tell us how healthy our environment is and they must be properly monitored and understood

·         Some freshwater species are now so vulnerable that specific, targeted conservation action and legislative changes are required to save them from extinction