A9. Community Involvement

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1 Objectives

Community involvement through citizen science can play a very useful role in supplementing and complementing the invertebrate monitoring undertaken by professionals. Not only does citizen science increase the amount of environmental data that can be collected but increases public awareness and involvement in local environmental issues. Within the UK the Riverfly Partnership’s Anglers Monitoring Initiative forms the basis of citizen science monitoring of invertebrates.

2 Method summary

The Riverfly Partnership officially launched the Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) in 2007, to provide a way for citizens to assess river water quality . The approach is based on volunteers collecting invertebrates using a standard 3 minute kick sample (method here) and bankside sorting and identification. Since the launch of the ARMI a series of updates have been developed to expand the approach – collectively known and Riverfly Plus. For river restoration appraisal it is important that any monitoring is applied using a robust BACI approach (method here).

Angler’s Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI)

This initiative currently involves more than 2000 volunteers monitoring > 1600 sites all over UK. Volunteers collect the invertebrate samples (generally monthly) and identify invertebrates from 8 groups to produce the ARMI score to give a measure of water quality. The results are compared with a “trigger level’, which is set in conjunction with the local regulatory authority. If the score falls below the trigger level the local riverfly coordinator first screens the results then the relevant regulatory authority is informed and investigates. Following this approach many pollution incidents have been detected and investigated that would have been missed without citizen surveillance (Brooks et al., 2018). As the invertebrate groups within the ARMI are affected by habitat in addition to water quality there is scope to apply the ARMI approach to river restoration schemes – see England and Peacock (2010).

Urban Riverfly

This protocol follows the same approach as the ARMI but records a greater number of invertebrate groups to include those more common in urban rivers where riverflies may be limited. The 14 aquatic invertebrate groups are included in addition to Worms, Snails, Beetles, Leeches, Blackfly larvae (Simuliidae) and Freshwater hoglouse (Asellidae)). High numbers of some groups result in a decrease in the final score because of their pollution tolerance and indication of poor-quality water. Result are now only available in Cartographer.

All this information is from: http://www.riverflies.org/urban_riverfly

Extended Riverfly siltation and low flow

This extension of the ARMI originates from Lincolnshire and has been designed to increase the sensitivity of the score to low flow and sedimentation. This protocol includes the addition of groups and includes their velocity-sensitives and sediment-sensitives weighted by 4 abundances categories. A total of 26 taxa are included in the indices and split into 2 groups, the first one composed of species that are tolerant to fine sediment and low flow, and the second one, of sensitive species to fine sediment and low flow. The score rises with sediment and flow sensitive taxa whereas it reduces when the species are tolerant to these factors. When the score is below a trigger level actions must be performed to improve water quality and hydromorphology. All this information comes from:

Extended Riverfly

The Extended Riverfly Scheme is a national initiative built on the success of the ARMI initiative. It’s aim is to give a more precise evaluation and better management of rivers by adding to the identification process all the families included in the River InVertebrate Prediction And Classification System (RIVPACS). Under the extended riverfly, 28 invertebrate families (instead of the original 8 groups) are identified. The updated scheme provides a useful tool to citizen scientists to improve their knowledge on freshwater invertebrate fauna and provide more robust assessments. The scheme is currently in development.



  • John Davy-Bowker, Freshwater Biological Association, River Laboratory.
  • Angus Menzies, Riverfly Volunteer Coordinator, Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Smart rivers, freshwater watch

The SmartRivers program is led by the Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC). The program aims to provide a better understanding of pressure of water quality on juvenile fish and anticipate pollution or water degradation events. It enables volunteers, supported by a training scheme, training videos, an invertebrate-identification App and support programmes, to monitor the water quality in their rivers. Data are comparable with the data from the regulatory agencies. Volunteers can either identify invertebrates to species (based on a benchmarking exercise to establish the resident species) or send their samples off for analysis. Samples are collected twice a year (spring and autumn) and the results sent to the S&TC to calculate biological scores which give an indication of organic pollution, nutrient enrichment, sediment, river flow and pesticides.

All this information comes from: https://www.salmon-trout.org/smart-rivers/

Contact: smartrivers@salmon-trout.org

Ecosystem function and river restoration monitoring

This prototype method is in test but has been tried in 15 locations across UK. The aim of the approach is to assess ecosystem function by assessing invertebrate and microbial resource use to control the efficiency of river restoration actions. The protocol consists of fixing an artificial colonization sampler (rectangular parallelepiped with 2 openings covered with coarse and thin mesh) to the riverbed and recording the colonization by macroinvertebrates in one half, and microbial activity in the other.

  • Contacts: Dr Murray Thompson [Website]

3 Advantages

  • Really powerful tool that allows lots of watching eyes on a lot of river
  • Engagement with the citizens and raising environmental and river awareness
  • Detect pollution and water degradation
  • Best of applied using a BACI approach

4 Disadvantages

  • Huge amount of data to monitor
  • Observer bias (difference in sample, chosen site, etc…) can be smoothed by the amount of data
  • The kick sampling method is not designed for deep rivers and not applicable

5 Cost

Variable depending on the scheme.

6 Protocols


7 References

  • England, J. and Peacock, B. (2010) The Riverfly Partnership: the key to public participation in monitoring river restoration? River Restoration News 10: 4-5.
  • Brooks, S. J., Fitch, B., Davy-Bowker, J., & Codesal, S. A. (2019). Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI): a UK-wide citizen science project for water quality assessment. Freshwater Science, 38(2), 270-280.