Priorities in the Somerset Catchments have been discussed amongst the partners via our Steering Group meetings to reflect their priorities and local works. These priorities will be reviewed during Steering Group meetings according to the progress of the Actions being undertaken by partners.

 

Fisheries

The Axe and Brue, the Parrett and West Somerset streams are currently not supporting healthy fisheries and are failing to meet environmental requirements. Somerset is a priority area for European Eels, considered critically endangered, due to the large number of glass eels/elvers which migrate into Somerset rivers each year. The two main factors limiting fish populations are habitat quality and connectivity. Many of our rivers have been extensively modified for various reasons, resulting in a significant reduction in habitat quality. Most Somerset rivers have barriers to fish (including eels) migration which prevent passage to access a wider range of habitat type.

 

Habitats

Through centuries, the Somerset Catchments have been heavily managed to accommodate anthropogenic use especially around the Levels. Somerset catchments have a diverse mosaic of landscape and habitats from the Mendip, Quantocks and Exmoor to the Levels, the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel.

The Somerset Levels & Moors are one of the largest and richest areas of traditionally managed wet grassland and fen habitats with a series of individual Sites of Special Scientific Interest within this area which together are notified as a Special Protection Area and Ramsar site. These wetlands are supporting an outstanding assemblage of aquatic invertebrates, diverse flora and good population of waterfowl and other wintering birds. They are currently failing to meet environmental standards.

 

Water Quality and Quantity

Water quality is a big issue for Somerset Catchments. In 2016, 2/3 of the rivers are failing to meet the environmental requirements from the Water Framework Directive regarding phosphate concentration.

Unnatural enrichment with two plant nutrients, phosphorus and nitrogen, also known as eutrophication, jeopardizes healthy ecosystems, which induces the growth of microscopic floating plants, algae and/or the formation of dense mats of larger floating plants. This process may result in oxygen depletion detrimental to other present species. Nutrient sources are from agricultural practices, sewage treatment discharges, poorly maintained septic tanks and land runoff.

Somerset rivers suffer from important fine sediment load which leads to habitat clogging, soil impoverishment and extra maintenance costs of assets. Sediments come from the surrounding land being eroded.

Lands have been drained for centuries to enable profitable use. This trend accelerated with machinery post war. Land management changes, population growth and development in the flood plain have led to an increase in flood risk. Rapid run-off from urban and agricultural land contribute to poor water quality from erosion. Therefore, we believe that water quality and quantity issues cannot be dissociated; we will work to slow the flow from upper lands and reduce flood risk with the Somerset Rivers Authority and the main Flood Risk Management Authorities.

 

 


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