A riverfly survey on the Wharfe was one of hundreds of wildlife surveys carried out or commissioned by the National Park Authority this spring and summer.
A three-minute gentle kick of the sediment at Linton Steps saw a large number of nymphs of mayflies and caddis flies caught in a net, suggesting good water quality, although invasive signal crayfish were present.
Wildlife or farm conservation officers have also monitored mammals, birds, plants and butterflies, and have carried out habitat condition surveys to support farmers entering agri-environment agreements.
The aim is to understand the state of nature in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. All the data — together with information collected by many other organisations —will be represented in the triennial ‘Trends and Status Report’, to be published by the Yorkshire Dales Biodiversity Forum in the backend.
Senior Wildlife Conservation Officer Tony Serjeant, who conducted the riverfly survey with Land Management and Conservation Apprentice Lizzy Grieve (see pictures), said: “The Riverfly Survey helps us work out the health of the river in terms of the life it supports. Right at the bottom of the food chain there are these invertebrates, which become the mayflies and the stoneflies eaten by fish, birds, bats and all sorts of wildlife.
“It’s a national survey that we’ve been taking part in for about three years now, run by the Riverfly Partnership. We’ve been playing a minor role by contributing results from this particular site at Linton Steps. The Freshwater Biological Association maintains the databases and accept the records – so there is a whole network of people doing this survey across the country. It’s the way we want to go with our whole monitoring programme, aligning ourselves with national programmes – and always working in partnership with others.”
Other survey work carried out in partnership by National Park Authority in the past year has included:
- National Plant Monitoring Squares in partnership with Plantlife
- Surveys for the British Trust for Ornithology’s Breeding Bird Survey, often carried out by Dales Volunteers
- Dormouse monitoring at two sites, including Freeholders’ Wood at Aysgarth Falls, in partnership with People’s Trust for Endangered Species
- Red Squirrel monitoring in partnership with Wensleydale Red Squirrel Group)
- Black Grouse counts at lekking sites
- Checks on birds of prey roosting and nesting sites in partnership with Natural England
- Butterfly transects in partnership with Butterfly Conservation
- Population monitoring of priority species of plants.
In addition the Authority has completed wildlife assessments for farmers. In the past year officers have carried out dozens of surveys including:
- Wading bird counts on farms that are participating in the Payment By Results ELM Test and Trial in Wensleydale and Coverdale
- Grassland condition assessment surveys, and limestone pavement assessment surveys, on sites with expiring Higher Level Stewardship agreements
Member Champion for the Natural Environment at the National Park Authority, Ian McPherson, said: “The Yorkshire Dales Biodiversity Forum brings together a range of organisations and our shared ambition is for the Yorkshire Dales National Park to be home to the finest variety of wildlife in England by 2040. The wildlife surveys we carry out are a crucial part of the plan to achieve that.
“We’ve got a head start over many parts of the country in that we have better information on which to base conservation action. That’s not to say that we don’t have a hill to climb. The annual surveys of priority habitats that we commission show that many of the really important habitats are in poor condition. Yet there is good news. The Trends and Status report later this year will show improvements in the condition of some habitats, such as upland calcareous grassland, hay meadows and limestone pavement. More than three-quarters of the most important species we’ve been monitoring in the National Park have stable or increasing populations, including species such as curlew that are in drastic decline elsewhere.”
Wildlife surveys enable the National Park Authority and partners to monitor progress on seven National Park Management Plan (NPMP) objectives: C1 – Priority Habitats, C2 – Priority Species, C3 – Rivers Condition, C4 – Payment By Results, C5 – Illegal persecution of raptors, D1 – Woodland Management and D7 – Invasive non native species. These objectives have been identified as those which are essential to achieving the 2040 goal.