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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Trout triumph thanks to Tarmac donation

Wild Trout Trust

Small fry get to be big fish in Yorkshire rivers thanks to donation of gravel from Tarmac

BIODIVERSITY in the Yorkshire Dales is expected to flourish, thanks to a donation from Tarmac which means small fry have the chance of growing into big fish.

And if the native trout are flourishing, so too are other wild species such as kingfishers, herons, and otters, according to a leading wildlife expert.

‘It’s a real mark of a healthy river system,’ said Prof. Jonathan Grey of Lancaster University and Research and Conservation Officer for the Wild Trout Trust. ‘If we get the habitat right, everything benefits and gets the chance to flourish.’

Prof. Grey said straightened river courses – often the result of modern agriculture methods, roads and railway lines, and industry – have altered the flow of rivers and streams, making them steeper and faster. This, in turn, affects the habitat in which trout lay their eggs, restricting the viability of the young fry in the early stages of their lives.

But, sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best: introduce man-made ways of restoring the rivers and streams to improve the habitat.

Tarmac have donated 30 tonnes of gravel which was used to build up parts of the river at Halton Gill specifically for trout spawning habitat. This has led to impressive results and now Prof. Grey and his team are surveying the trout population at Haw Beck, which runs alongside the company’s Skipton Quarry.

Prof. Grey, with additional support from the Yorkshire Water Biodiversity Enhancement Fund for a project called TROUT (Tackling Resilience on Underperforming Tributaries), says he is already seeing success.

‘Introducing gravel to another site at Dauber Gill on the Nidd has demonstrated a 227% increase in trout production, and that success is what has spurred us on to try the same approach at Halton Gill. So, even these relatively modest projects can have a big impact,’ he said.

‘Haw Beck that runs through the Skipton Quarry site could potentially be good spawning habitat for trout, which will also help other species, including kingfishers, heron, and otters. As an ecologist, it is fantastic news.

‘As well as introducing gravel, other improvements will eventually include using woody material, small barrier removal, and tree planting along exposed sections.

‘I have protected the beck for 500m upstream of the Tarmac site and planted around 1,000 trees, so the extent of protected waterway has already been increased,’ said Prof. Grey.

‘Monitoring to date has shown potential for the trout population to increase by removing the bottlenecks on spawning habitat. The number of small fish – in the 60–70mm category, which are young trout in their first year of growth – is well up on last year, as a combined result of the work we have done and a better winter for spawning across Yorkshire.’

Paul Parker, unit manager at Tarmac’s Skipton Quarry, said: ‘Sustainability is at the forefront of everything we do at Tarmac, and it’s rewarding to see that a simple donation of one of our many products might make a significant difference to the biodiversity of the area.’

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