Hampshire Avon River Guardians JOIN OUR VOLUNTEER ARMY AND HELP US MONITOR OUR RIVERS! Are you passionate about protecting your local river? Do you want to help your local community? Are you keen on walking in the countryside? If so, we can help! In partnership with Natural England, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Water Team is setting up a new project to record and monitor Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) along rivers in Wiltshire. The scheme will set up a “Neighbourhood Watch of River Guardians” providing vital information regarding the state of INNS in the county, and will be a first line of defence in the fight against these environmentally-damaging species. For several decades Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and partners have actively sought to reduce and eradicate invasive non-native species across the rivers in Wiltshire, through both the Wiltshire Invasive Plants and Source to Sea projects, but more still needs to be done. Invasive non-native species are the second biggest threat to biodiversity worldwide, after habitat loss, and the total annual cost of INNS to the British economy is estimated at approximately £1.7 billion (Williams et al., 2010). Specifically, species such as Himalayan balsam, monkeyflower, orange balsam and American skunk cabbage can grow prolifically on our river banks, outcompeting native species and dying back over winter, leaving the banks susceptible to erosion. In order to be able to control these species most effectively, we first need to know where they occur. Photos: Himalayan balsam (left) © Tony Coultiss; American skunk cabbage (right) © Sam Bull The River Guardian scheme aims to build on existing knowledge that Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and partners have amassed, and will monitor the presence of invasive species in the headwaters and middle reaches of the Rivers Nadder, Wylye and Ebble. River Guardians are therefore needed to help survey and record the invasive species that are growing along the river banks here. The scheme also provides a great way for individuals to give something back to their local community environment. The data collected will then be used to guide the strategic eradication of invasive non-native species across the Hampshire Avon catchment, and will ultimately benefit native biodiversity and lead to cleaner, healthier river ecosystems. WHAT THE RIVER GUARDIANS WILL DO River Guardians will be at the heart of managing and helping to protect our rivers by monitoring what goes on in them. The role of a River Guardian will primarily be to survey and record invasive non-native species, and there is further scope to become involved in the monitoring of other species for those who wish to. River guardians will also help to raise awareness about our rivers and encourage local communities to become involved with the scheme. Photo: Walking amidst orange balsam © Sam Stork Volunteer River Guardians would be expected to undertake surveys by walking along a stretch of river either once or twice a month from April to August, and therefore a basic level of fitness is required for this role. River Guardians will primarily be looking for the presence of 10 key invasive non-native species that are known to cause a problem in the Hampshire Avon catchment. Data collection methods can be electronic, app-based or paper based depending upon volunteer preferences. WHAT RIVER GUARDIANS CAN EXPECT FROM US Wiltshire Wildlife Trust will provide River Guardians with all the necessary information, training, materials and equipment required for performing the role. Ongoing support will be provided and once established, volunteers will receive regular project updates. As the project is focused on the headwaters and middle reaches of the Rivers Nadder, Wylye and Ebble, sites to be surveyed will be selected beforehand and will be assigned to volunteers based on volunteer location preferences. HOW TO BECOME A RIVER GUARDIAN If you are interested in becoming a River Guardian then you will need to attend an information and training workshop. Three workshops are being held on: Monday 19th February 2018 – Sutton Veny Village Hall – 19:30 – 21:30 Monday 26th February 2018 – Elizabeth Hall, Tisbury – 19:30 – 21:30 Thursday 29th March 2018 – Broad Chalke Village Hall – 19:30 – 21:30 The information event and training workshops will include: Project background information Species identification Survey methodology Recording findings Health and safety Refreshments will be provided. The information and training workshop is free thanks to funding received from Natural England, however booking is essential. To book your place, please contact us using: [email protected] or 01380 736066. Please note that it is not mandatory to sign up to the scheme after the training if you do not feel it is right for you. FURTHER INFORMATION For further information on invasive non-native species, visit the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat: http://www.nonnativespecies.org/home/index.cfm For further information on the invasive non-native species work that Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has undertaken in the past, visit our Source to Sea project webpage: https://www.wiltshirewildlife.org/source-to-sea For other wildlife monitoring schemes that Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is involved in, please visit: The Riverfly Partnership: http://www.riverflies.org/ Freshwater Watch: https://freshwaterwatch.thewaterhub.org/ For additional volunteering opportunities with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Water Team, please visit: https://www.wiltshirewildlife.org/practical-volunteering-with-the-water-team You can also keep up to date with what we have been up to by following us on Twitter @wiltsrivers If you would like to receive our emails and updates, please contact us using: [email protected] or call us on 01380 736066.