In early November, a team of 30 volunteers from King’s College and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) undertook a unique and exciting survey on the bed of the River Thames near Richmond.
Armed with only tapemeasures and quadrats, our group made recordings of over 3600 benthic organisms and their habitat over a 2 day period. It was an intensive and often strenuous effort made to better understand population dynamics of invasive and native mussels in the Thames. Further, a sorely needed expansion to ecological knowledge in this typically inaccessible section of the tidal river.
Uniquely, the Port of London Authority (PLA) had permitted our access to the foreshore during an artificial drawdown of the river. Here, maintenance work on an upstream weir had locked the outgoing freshwater tide upstream: resulting with a window of opportunity where almost the entire Thames bed was exposed for us to survey (See Picture).
Photo Credit: Eleanore Heasley
Despite the cold starts and the frequent threat of rain, our memorable Kings College team contributed hugely to the data collected, now to be shared with ZSL for an upcoming report. Among many highlights, our work suggested that in terms of individuals, 97% of all recorded mussels were invasive, rather than native species in this section of the Thames. With mussels often being such an important component to freshwater communities, seeing such alien varieties so dominant is arguably of great environmental concern. Much is now left open for future research in this area of the Thames.
Particular thanks for such a great few days go to our ZSL partners but also the KCL team: Gemma Borelli, Nathan Goldstein, Claudia Gutierrez, Eleanore Heasley, Giacomo Moretti, Bruce Main, Mike Chadwick, Anna Lavelle, Eleri Pritchard, Richard Mason and Harry Sanders. As always, the debrief in the pub was a pleasure! –Daniel Mills, Kings College London