Nature & Environment
A variety of wildlife can be seen as you walk the Taff
The River Taff - A Tale of Recovery
In August 2011 the River Taff was named one of the Top Ten Most
Improved Rivers in England and Wales, having shrugged off its
industrial past to become a haven for wildlife, walkers and anglers
This river was at one time almost devoid of life, its waters
blackened by pollution from local industry and households.
Chemical waste and sewage flowed into the river unchecked, and
acidic water drained from the coal mines, dumping thousands of tons
of colliery waste into the river each year.
Recent decades have seen a seen a dramatic recovery, with
greater control of waste disposal, pesticides, and the decline of
the coal mining industry. Life has slowly returned to create
the diverse and thriving ecosystem.
Invertebrates - The Heart of the Freshwater
The first animals to recover were the aquatic invertebrates, such
as mayfly, caddis fly and shrimp. These tiny creatures spend
much of their lives unseen in the river
sediment but are nonetheless at the heart of the freshwater
ecosystem, providing a source of food for a host of other
Being highly sensitive to pollution, aquatic invertebrates are
often likened to the canaries of the coal-mines. When
pollution enters the water, a drop in invertebrate numbers will
soon be detected downstream, giving an early warning signal that
dangerous pollutants are present, and allowing the source to be
quickly tracked down.
Here on the Taff you are most likely to see species such as the
Large Dark Olive and the Pale Watery, emerging as flies in the
spring and summer.
Recovering Fish Stocks
Clean water and plentiful invertebrates have allowed a healthy
population of Brown trout, Atlantic salmon and other fish to
flourish, helped along the way by fish passes and other habitat
Testament to these improvements, in 2009 a radio-tracking
project confirmed the presence of Atlantic salmon in Merthyr Tydfil
for the first time in 200 years, and the town played host to a fly
Atlantic salmon, the 'King of Fish', spend the first years of
their life in a freshwater
river, only later becoming capable of life at sea. They then
travel thousands of miles, to spend several years taking advantage
of rich food supplies in the North Atlantic. As adults they
navigate home to the exact same river in which they hatched, to
spawn and complete the amazing cycle.
The Top of the Food Chain
Fish are a source of food for a variety of river birds and
mammals, none more famous and elusive than the otter.
Hunting mostly at night, otters can sometimes be spotted here at
dawn or dusk, but are most often identified by the presence of
their droppings, or 'spraints'. Look out for dark patches of
fish scales and bones on prominent rocks along the river, where an
otter has marked its territory.
The dramatic comeback made by otters in recent years is another
testament to the River Taff's recovery. Their occupation of
suitable sites along the river has increased by over a quarter in
the last decade, demonstrating a positive growth in their numbers
and range, and a real success for conservation efforts.
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