|The river wildlife of one of Dorset’s iconic chalk streams needs help, according to Dorset Wildlife Trust. The River Allen in east Dorset is one of the hidden gems of the county, home to species such as the rare native white-clawed crayfish, but not all of its wildlife is thriving. Surveys undertaken this year by Dorset Wildlife Trust as part of The River Allen Living Landscape Project found very little evidence of water voles, once prevalent on the river.
Amanda Broom, Conservation Officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “We knew that water voles were few and far between on The Allen, but these results are very worrying. We are working with local landowners and fishing groups to make improvements to the habitat for a range of species and this work is clearly especially urgent for water voles. We are urging anybody who has seen a water vole or any signs of their presence within the last year to get in touch with us.”
A richness in wildlife
The crystal-clear waters of chalk streams support more wildlife than any other waters in Britain, with a huge range of aquatic insects, spawning sites for trout and salmon and food for predators. Their valleys contain important wetlands, including wet woodlands, flower-rich fens and wet grasslands, home to wildfowl and wading birds. As part of the project, which is supported by Sembcorp, Dorset Wild Rivers and a public appeal, Dorset Wildlife Trust and local partners are working to restore areas of the chalk stream that have been affected by human intervention. The aim is to bring back natural characteristics such as pools, shallow clean gravels, clear waters rich in oxygen with lush vegetation and wet meadows. As well as water voles, wildlife that will benefit includes brown trout, white clawed crayfish, bullhead and brook lamprey as well as river flies and birds such as kingfisher, lapwing, redshank and snipe.
Amanda added: “You can also help water voles by reporting any sightings of mink, a non-native species that has helped to wipe out water vole populations. Just ring us on 01202 692033 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.” For more information, visit the Dorset Wild Rivers Project.
Other ways to help river wildlife include following the crayfish code, already adopted by responsible fishermen to prevent the spread of disease and of non-native species:
Disinfect or wash & dry equipment and footwear
Protect native crayfish habitat
Report sightings to the Environment Agency (or via Dorset Wildlife Trust)
Introduce crayfish to the wild
Trap or remove crayfish (without a licence)
Never use crayfish as bait
Learn more about the Crayfish Code here.
Notes to Editor
For more information please contact Amanda Broom at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01202 692033.
About Dorset Wildlife Trust www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk
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Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life
Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living. Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 25,000 members and over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.
Water vole in Dorset - Stewart Canham