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New study of economic lifeblood in Welsh rivers

Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London are taking part in a new £3m study into the importance of biodiversity in preserving the quality of Welsh rivers and the many livelihoods that depend upon them.

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The investigation, led by Cardiff University, will range from small catchments around Llyn Brianne in central Wales to the entire Welsh uplands. The team will study the importance of biodiversity – the variety of life forms within the area - to the functioning and economic value of Wales’ river ecosystems.

Dr Guy Woodward, Dr Jonathan Grey and Dr Dan Perkins of Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences will join colleagues from Cardiff’s School of Biosciences and Sustainable Places Research Institute.

Named DURESS (Diversity of Upland Rivers for Ecosystem Service Sustainability), the project forms part of a £13m Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) biodiversity initiative.

The project comes at a crucial time for the UK’s waterways as they feel the impact of changing land use and climate.  DURESS will determine how these ecosystems are being affected and what can be done to regulate the changes in the future.

DURESS aims to quantify how river organisms might regulate water quality, enhance fish production and underpin culturally valuable assets such as fishing or river birds.

Wales was considered ideal for the project because its rivers are some of Britain’s cleanest, the country is extremely rich in the types of scientific data required and excellent river science is already well established. The Welsh rivers represent a model system that can be applied to many other parts of the world.

The 30-strong research team includes scientists from Lancaster University; Aberystwyth; the British Trust for Ornithology; the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Forest Research and NHS Wales; and the specialist freshwater consultancy, APEM Ltd.

The consortium is headed by Dr Isabelle Durance, senior research fellow in Cardiff’s Sustainable Places Research Institute, who spearheaded the proposal.

The pioneering project has already won support from a wide range of partners, including the Welsh Government, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water, the RSPB and the Welsh Rivers’ Trusts (Afonydd Cymru). Welsh communities will also be consulted.

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