The old industrial routes of canals and inland waterways such as the Trent & Mersey and Caldon Canals have become a unique corridor for wildlife, providing essential shelter, food and breeding grounds.
The habitats they provide are helping to support many of the country’s most valuable, yet threatened wildlife species such as kingfishers, butterflies, water voles and dragonflies.
With the State of Nature Report highlighting that ‘freshwater and wetland habitats occupy just 3% of the UK’s surface but support around 10% of our species’, the Trust is asking residents and visitors to the canals and rivers for help to map its waterside habitats to ensure they remain a thriving place for hundreds of animal and plant species.
By using a free app called enaturewatch, or online via the Trust’s website, visitors will be asked a series of questions which will help paint the picture of a cross section of canal or river habitat being surveyed.
Richard Bennett, senior ecologist for the Canal & River Trust, says: “Our ultimate aim is to ensure there are plenty of habitats for wildlife to move up and down our waterway corridors, through city centres, as well as remote parts of the countryside. We’re hoping Great Nature Watch can support the great environmental progress we’ve made over the years. People power can make a big difference so we hope visitors to our canals or rivers will get round as much of our waterway network in Leek as possible and help create a ‘living map’.
“The countryside has been fragmented over the last 50 years with increasing urban environments. Our waterway corridors are unique and we need to do all we can to keep them this way as we’re seeing so many species struggling for survival. To do this, it’s vital that we continue to learn more about the state and health of our habitats so that we can help them flourish through our ecology work.”
Whilst out on the towpath, budding environment enthusiasts and families will be able to learn about what they see through a ‘spotter’s guide’, a section of the app designed to teach people about the wildlife, plants and trees that can be found on the towpath.
The free enaturewatch app is available on IOS and android platforms. For more information on Great Nature Watch please visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/great_nature_watch.