Avon Wildlife Trust: Lydia Robbins
Avon Wildlife Trust is on the front line to protect Britain's white-clawed crayfish which once flourished in the heart of Bristol, through the Crayfish in Crisis project.
Crayfish are best imagined as a smaller freshwater cousin of the lobster. People are usually surprised by how large the white-clawed crayfish can grow (up to 12cm), especially those living in small streams.
We began studying Avon's white-clawed crayfish in the 1990s and have seen how quickly they can vanish from, for example, Bristol's River Frome. The main causes for losses today are the spread of "non-native" species such as the North American signal crayfish and the deadly "crayfish plague". The River Frome experience is replicated across England and Wales and it is difficult to imagine how many white-clawed crayfish there were, just in and around Bristol.
Since 2006 Avon Wildlife Trust has worked with organisations such as the Environment Agency, Buglife, and Bristol Zoo to relocate threatened crayfish to safe havens – also known as "ark" sites – where they will be safe from non-native crayfish and disease.
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It is also not just our crayfish that are at risk but other wildlife too. Angling communities that enjoy our waters have also felt the "pinch" because signal crayfish will reduce the number of fish such as salmon and trout.
The good news is that we can all help our freshwaters. And why should we do that? Healthy freshwaters bring many real benefits that we can now measure and appreciate. It's not just about peaceful places to explore or weekend walks.
Rivers play an important role in creating a living landscape. They give us "services", for example clean tap water. The more nature is able to provide, without a variation from the natural balance, the smaller the cost to us.
We can all play a part, to give rivers and crayfish a healthy future.
We can follow official advice to "check – clean – dry" boots, angling or watersports kit after enjoying days out, and never release animals or introduce plants into wild areas.
In this region Avon Wildlife Trust is playing its part in the South West Crayfish Partnership, which includes Buglife, the Environment Agency, Bristol Zoo Gardens, BBC Wildlife Fund and Biffaward.
As the trust's chair Roz Kidman-Cox has said before, it's only when we realise something is missing that we appreciate it had a value to us.
We hope to protect our white-clawed crayfish for future generations along with a healthy environment that brings wellbeing to everyone.
Lydia Robbins is Avon Wildlife Trust's Living Landscape Species Officer