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Measuring the impact of Riverfly

The MICS team are working with citizen scientists, project managers and other stakeholders of Riverfly monitoring to measure the impacts. We plan to hold workshops with several Riverfly groups to investigate the impacts of their activities on the five MICS domains: economy, society, environment, governance and science & technology. Dates for these workshops are to be confirmed.


Rivers provide vital habitats for wildlife and are a key component of our society, supporting livelihoods and habitation. However, human activity can have a negative impact on rivers. Pollution is a key problem affecting rivers and can enter from a variety of different pathways. These include run off from agricultural land washing excess pesticide and nutrients into rivers, and the discharge of waste from urban areas among others. Identifying pollution events and their source promptly helps to minimise the impact that such events may have on river water quality. This can be done by monitoring key ‘indicator’ species - such as riverfly larva - that are sensitive to changes in river water quality. The UK MICS case study explores the role of citizen scientists in monitoring indicator species and reporting pollution events in three case studies in Lincolnshire, Surrey and the Westcountry (Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset).

Nature-based solution

Once a potential pollution event has been identified the relevant authorities are contacted who locate and tackle the source of pollution.

Monitoring river water quality is not only important for detecting pollution events, but provides long-term data regarding the wider health of rivers. This data is important for identifying potential sites suitable for restoration, and for assessing whether a restoration project has been successful in improving river water quality following its completion.

The involvement of citizen scientists in long-term river water quality monitoring also helps to increase local knowledge and awareness and foster a feeling of shared ownership towards rivers, which serves to reconnect people with nature.

Citizen science acitivities

Riverfly monitoring is the most widely adopted aquatic citizen science scheme in the UK. Over 3,000 volunteers are actively involved through a network of organisations (c. 180 in total) that includes angling clubs, conservation groups, water course managers, scientists, environmental charities and government agencies.

The Riverfly Partnership have several citizen science activities. These include the Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Imitative (ARMI) and the Extended and Urban Riverflies.

  • ARMI can be considered as the Riverfly Partnerships’ leading citizen science project, and involves volunteers recording the presence and abundance of riverflies sensitive to pollution. Riverfly volunteers are trained to distinguish eight groups of riverflies based on distinguishing features, e.g. the presence and number of tails and pairs of legs, appearance of gills etc.
  • The Extended and Urban Riverfly projects build upon the ARMI methodology. These alternative methods require volunteers to monitor an increased number of riverfly groups. The Extended Riverfly provides greater sensitivity and evaluation of pressures from drought, abstraction and sediment accumulation. Urban Riverfly incorporates additional species that can tolerate the higher levels of pollution associated with urban rivers, e.g. snails, beetles, leeches and worms, providing a better understanding of the health of urban rivers.

Local community groups such as anglers are often seen as natural guardians of the river environment, and are ideally placed to monitor the health of rivers. The Riverfly project helps to raise awareness of the issues associated with river water quality, and identify pollution events promptly so that their impact can be minimised. Long-term monitoring data also contributes to identifying suitable sites for restoration, and assessing the success of restoration schemes following their completion. Citizen science activities through Riverfly monitoring therefore have both immediate and longer-term impacts for the environment and society. MICS aims to capture the impacts of these citizen science activities in the UK.

You can find more details and regular updates on the Riverfly citizen science activities here:

If you’re interested to get involved or want more information you can get in touch with the project here - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.