Biodiversity is a key indicator of environmental health; our citizen scientists are helping us monitor species abundances and improve habitat quality in the Chess catchment.
The Chess Smarter Water Catchment project, using and collaborating with established national ecological monitoring methods, is collecting a range of data from a number of different citizen science surveys looking at river habitat quality, invertebrate biodiversity and water vole abundances.
Modular River Survey
Also known as MoRPh surveys, this detailed survey technique explores physical habitat quality of both the river channel and riverbank, enabling us to answer questions about diversity of vegetation, siltation of the river channel that can affect fish spawning, and physical complexity of the riverbed amongst many others. We have so far started using this method to measure the success of restoration work, with many more restoration and intervention projects planned in the coming months.
Riverfly is a long-established method of freshwater invertebrate surveying, designed to classify and count different invertebrate groups since they are a vital part of the food chain and sensitive indicators of water quality. Training and surveying generally takes places in early spring to autumn annually, where you are usually designated a Riverfly site for monthly sampling.
This is a new nationwide method of collecting invertebrate species diversity and abundance, whilst also identifying the impacts of organic pollution, nutrient enrichment, sediment, chemicals and flow stress through a water quality scorecard. Samples are collected twice annually in spring and autumn, sent off for analysis and the results can then hopefully be used to inform management initiatives.
Water vole monitoring
Every two years in collaboration with the River Chess Association, surveys are completed along the river from May to September, looking for signs of the rare water vole. Populations have decreased by 32% since 2013, which is worrying news for this keystone species and indicator of healthy river ecosystems. Join us in monitoring this threatened animal to help aid its recovery.
Tracking the impact surveys
The Smarter Water Catchment initiative has teamed up with the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs project to start conducting Tracking the Impact surveys within the Chess catchment in 2023.
These surveys involve monitoring of either breeding birds, butterflies or plant species, offering training of both survey methods and species identification, before you choose a 1 km square to monitor throughout the spring to autumn period.
As Tracking the Impact is an established method of surveying, using Breeding Bird Survey, Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey and National Plant Monitoring Scheme initiatives, you could survey within the Chess catchment, or within a wider area of the Chilterns if you choose.
Register your interest in Chess citizen science
Does what we’re doing sound like something you’d like to get involved with?
We’re keen to hear from you if you would like to help us carry out citizen science surveys, or if you are a landowner who would like to host surveys on your section of the River Chess.
Register your interest below and we’ll get back in touch to talk about the next steps.