One of the longest-running studies of streams in the world – the minute study of 14 brooks that tumble through a remote Welsh mountain landscape – has exposed a troubling loss of riverine wildlife.
Ecologists working on the Llyn Brianne Observatory project in mid Wales, which has been in operation for almost 40 years, have flagged up the disappearance and decline of invertebrates from the streams.
Steve Ormerod, a professor of ecology at Cardiff University’s school of biosciences, who has personally studied the 14 streams for 34 years, characterised the loss of freshwater organisms as a “hidden tragedy”.
He said: “Freshwater ecologists are seriously concerned at the plight of the world’s rivers, lakes and wetlands, and at the rate at which they’re losing plants and animals of many types.
“Yet, many people are unaware of this ongoing tragedy hidden beneath the water surface. Our results show that the buildup to species extinction can start in a subtle way, for example, where climate change causes numbers to decline before sudden disappearance.”