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Island River Habitat Survey completed 24 July 2006

The U.K. Environment Agency recently conducted a successful River Habitat Survey on the Isle of Man, facilitated by the Government Laboratory on behalf of the Department of Local Government and the Environment. Dr. Calum MacNeil, the Government Laboratory’s Freshwater Biologist, gave guidance and assistance to staff from the U.K. Environment Agency in surveying 35 river sites, sampled at random across the Island.

The River Habitat Survey takes place throughout the British Isles every 10 years, to assess the character and quality of river habitats and the human modifications affecting them. It highlights those common features of rivers which provide good habitat for local wildlife and the impacts of river management and land use which may have altered such habitats, sometimes detrimentally. Such things as land drainage, channel realignment, livestock grazing and forest plantations can all have impacts on nearby rivers and the wildlife living there. The River Habitat Survey seeks to promote those aspects of river management which increase biodiversity and minimise disruption to wildlife.

Sites on the Island ranged from tiny trickling low-land streams a few inches deep, to fast-flowing upland valley rivers, in locations from protected glens to working farms, and open moorland to urban developments.

Dr. MacNeil, commenting on the completion of the recent survey, said, “The Environment Agency has repeated a process carried out 10 years ago on the Isle of Man and so this should allow us to assess how the Island’s rivers have responded to changing land uses over the past decade. It will also allow us to compare the state of our river habitats to those in England, Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland. The current survey in the Isle of Man is being used a pilot study by the Environment Agency, before similar surveys are conducted on English rivers and so we will be the first to find out how our river systems and our wildlife are coping with changes in land use and river management.

The Environment Agency staff have all been very complimentary about the friendliness of local people and landowners who, without exception, have been extremely helpful in giving directions and allowing access to land. I would also like to express my thanks to them as their co-operation has been so important. The survey could not have been such a success without their willing assistance."

Minister for Local Government and the Environment, John Rimington, MHK, said

“The River Habitat Survey represents an invaluable tool in assessing and protecting the Island’s rivers and streams. The Isle of Man is extremely fortunate in its natural heritage and such surveys can only enhance the way we manage our environment and protect our wildlife.”

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