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Water for Wildlife - Discovering life in London's waterways and boosting freshwater habitats

Ruddy darter (credit Iain Leach)Ruddy darter (credit Iain Leach)

A project focused on London's freshwater habitats - discovering what's living in them, and encouraging more wildlife to do so

London’s freshwater habitats have always been an important part of people’s lives.

They've experienced various modifications to accommodate changing needs: rivers redirected and weirs erected to feed mills; canals built to open new transport routes; wetlands drained to feed and house Londoners; reservoirs created to secure supplies of drinking water.

With a growing population, increased demand for space, and expanding infrastructure; freshwater habitats are experiencing new challenges such as pollution, flood defence interventions, habitat fragmentation and isolation.

Linear ParkLondon Wildlife Trust now seeks to better understand these important habitats and species they support, in order to manage and restore them. In July 2016 The Trust launched a new project, Water for Wildlife, which is focused on freshwater habitats in the capital. These waterways, and the species that live in them, will be monitored and mapped, with practical conservation improvements made to key sites across London, strengthening their wildlife value.

The project is funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Thames Water and will run until December 2019. It will be the catalyst to upscale The Trust’s surveying and monitoring activity, practical conservation work, and influence on conservation policy.Water for Wildlife will also deliver a high-quality training programme to skill volunteers in surveying, monitoring, and specialist practical conservation activities. Three new Water for Wildlife officers, plus a project manager, have been hired to deliver this work.

What can you do to help?

The Water for Wildlife team is collecting information on different freshwater habitats in London, no matter how large or small they are. Volunteers will be surveying rivers and streams, canals, reservoirs and ponds, looking for the creatures that find their home there.

Blue tailed damselfly (credit Iain Leach)Surveying will focus on Odonata: the order of insects that include dragonflies and damselflies. These dazzling creatures are one of the most attractive groups of freshwater insects, but as well as looking pretty they provide a useful indicator of habitat changes – quickly recolonising restored waterways and relocating in response to climate change. The surveys will be delivered with help from British Dragonfly Society.

One of the Water for Wildlife surveys, dubbed Dragonfly Detectives, will require help from the public. This citizen science survey of London’s dragonflies and damselflies will be hosted by the wildlife data service Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL). Anyone can visit a freshwater site, look for dragonflies and damselflies, and contribute by reporting their sightings on the web survey.

Training sessions will be delivered at Woodberry Wetlands in Hackney and Crane Park Island in west London. 

Results from the Dragonfly Detectives survey will allow The Trust to better understand the distribution of different Odonata species across London, and lead to the development of an atlas of Odonata for London.

In addition, between autumn 2016 and spring 2017 we are looking for Practical Conservation Volunteers to help us improve freshwater habitats for a range of species across the city. Habitat improvements will take place at London Wildlife Trust nature reserves and partner sites, and may involve pond and river restoration, softening of river banks, tree works, installation of in-stream structures, management of bankside vegetation and floating rafts, marginal planting, and removal of non-native species.

As a Practical Conservation Volunteer or Freshwater Survey Volunteer, you will have access to our full training programme, covering identification of freshwater species, freshwater conservation techniques and issues relating to freshwater conservation in London.

For more information on volunteering with Water for Wildlife visit

To get involved as a volunteer with Water for Wildlife please email

You can also follow the Water for Wildlife Twitter account: @WaterForWild


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