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Welsh river research

29 March 2012

A pioneering project led by Cardiff University has had a major boost by winning £3 million for new river research to build on 33 years of work at Llyn Brianne in mid Wales.

Named DURESS (Diversity of Upland Rivers for Ecosystem Service Sustainability), the project forms part of the £13 million Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Sustainability (BESS) initiative. BESS is investigating the role of biodiversity in maintaining and improving ecosystem services – goods and functions provided by nature on which peoples’ lives and livelihoods depend.
The research area will range from small catchments around Llyn Brianne in central Wales to the whole Welsh uplands. The project will look at the role played by biodiversity in preserving the quality and wildlife of Welsh rivers and the many livelihoods that depend upon them.

Researchers from the University’s School of Biosciences and Sustainable Places Research Institute will lead a team of around 30 scientists also including Lancaster University, Queen Mary University London and Aberystwyth; the British Trust for Ornithology; the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Forest Research and NHS Wales; and the specialist freshwater consultancy, APEM Ltd. The consortium is headed by Dr Isabelle Durance, senior research fellow in Cardiff’s Sustainable Places Research Institute, who spearheaded the proposal.

"We all need clean water, and the UK water infrastructure is valued at over £200 billion," said Dr Isabelle Durance.  "Yet, we so often overlook the value of the catchments that supply our water. Even more, we overlook the processes carried out by billions of river organisms that together help to maintain water quality.  These same organisms are part of an intricate web of life that fuels everything from Atlantic salmon to dippers and otters, yet we still know very little of how different parts of this web fit and function together." 
The pioneering project has already won active support from a wide range of partners, including the Welsh Government, Environment Agency, Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission, Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water, the RSPB and the Welsh Rivers’ Trusts (Afonydd Cymru).  Welsh communities will also be consulted widely during the project.
The project, which will start in May 2012, was won against fierce competition from around 30 other submissions of which only three were eventually funded.

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