In 2021, the Thames is home to many more animals than 60 years ago! This is the astonishing conclusion of a report published in November 2021 by the Zoological Society of London. In fact, experts from more than 16 organizations have carried out a complete count of the river’s inhabitants and have identified 115 species of fish, 92 species of birds, 3,200 gray seals and 900 harbor seals, seahorses, eels. Importantly, they identified three new species of sharks: the large fin shark, the spotted emissole, and the spiny shark (endangered). The latter is one of the few poisonous fish in the UK!
Say that the waters of the Thames were believed to be “biologically dead”!
In 1957, a similar study of the fauna of the longest river in England (346 km) found that certain areas were so polluted that they were “biologically dead”. However, the Thames offers a complex environment and varied habitats, its fresh water gradually transforming into seawater before flowing into the North Sea, 60 km from Tower Bridge in London. But human activities and pollutants had dramatically reduced animal populations.
2019 Campaign of the Zoological Society London Seal Watch.
Since the 1990s, protective measures have been taken. Wastewater treatment has reduced phosphorous concentrations. The restoration of the alluvial plains on the banks of the Thames and the marshes of its estuary has favored the return of marine birds and mammals.
Cleansing wipes are wreaking havoc on the Thames
To characterize the health status of the river, the researchers examined chronological data for 17 indicators and were thus able to observe an improvement in dissolved oxygen concentrations. Unfortunately, they were also able to measure the dangerous levels of nitrates released by industries or by wastewater in and around London, due to a treatment system dating back to the 19th century. The report remains alarmed by the rise in plastic pollution and the invasion of the river with cleaning wipes, especially between the city of Teddington, in south-west London, and Shoeburyness in the North Sea.
Finally, researchers are concerned about the impact of climate change on the estuary subjected to rising sea levels (4.26 mm per year in Silvertown) and rising water temperatures (about 0.2 ° C per anus). Finally, the number of fish species has decreased since the 1990s, without the cause being identified. The Zoological Society of London, which hopes to be able to carry out a study of the same magnitude within 5 to 10 years, is currently committing itself to restoring parts of the river with seagrass beds and oyster beds. This would not only create new habitats, but also natural defenses against flooding and submergence during storms.
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