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Stream restoration gives boost to eels’ epic journey

Stream restoration gives boost to eels’ epic journey

PUBLISHED ON: 20 DECEMBER 2019

Endangered eels have returned to medieval ponds in the New Forest thanks to special ‘eelevators’ created to help them on their way.

A team of experts and volunteers installed passes for European Eels at a series of ponds along the Hartford Stream at Beaulieu.

Young eels migrating thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean have already been recorded using the new bristle-brush passes.

The Stew Pond was originally created as a fish pond for the medieval monks of Beaulieu Abbey, while Boarman Pond and Middle Pond were created as ornamental features. They now provide important wetland habitats and are home to protected species such as the Great Crested Newt, Common Toad and European Eel.

Freshwater ecologist Dr Naomi Ewald said: ‘Ecologically the Hartford Stream is in excellent condition, flowing through woodland habitats and free from nutrient pollution.

‘This is a window into the past when clean, wildlife-rich freshwaters were commonplace in lowland England. Sadly, few examples this good can now be found elsewhere in the English countryside today.

‘We can well imagine the monks and surrounding community being grateful for the abundant, rich, fatty food supply provided by the spring elvers.’

Installing the new eel passes at Boarman Pond, Beaulieu. © Freshwater Habitats Trust

Modern upgrades to the stream and ponds have resulted in fast flowing pipes and large drops, preventing the eels from swimming upstream. The solution, devised by the Living Waters Project team and led by the Freshwater Habitats Trust, is a gutter and bristle-brush mechanism. This allows the eels to swim upstream using a slow flow of water from the pond.

Within three months of the works being completed, young eels were recorded using the passes.    

Dr Ewald, who is Director of Research and Development at Freshwater Habitats Trust, said: ‘It shows that, with high-quality freshwaters like the Hartford Stream, it only takes a small amount of work to make a big difference to the wildlife.

‘The key to our elver passes being sustainable in the longer term has been commitment from the local community. They are happy to check the build-up of leaf debris and periodically clean the brushes, whilst at the same time checking that flows are maintained at a constant low level.’

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund,  Living Waters Project is a partnership between Freshwater Habitats Trust, the Beaulieu Estate, Countryside Education Trust, and Environment Agency. It is part of the Our Past, Our Future (OPOF) scheme, led by the New Forest National Park Authority with 10 partners.

An Epic Journey

European Eels have a remarkable life, spending up to 20 years in streams and ponds before migrating thousands of miles to the Sargasso Sea, in the Atlantic Ocean, where they breed. The young eels – known as elvers – then return to European coasts, before migrating into freshwater to feed and grow.

The number of elvers returning to Europe have declined dramatically in the last 25 years – with a 95% reduction at some catch sites – and the European Eel is now classed as critically endangered.

Climate change, overfishing, parasites and pollution all play a significant role in the decline, and will require international solutions. In contrast, barriers to upstream migration which stop the eels from reaching all their potential feeding ground can be tackled in the short term.

For more information on the Living Waters Project go to the Freshwater Habitats Trust website: https://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/

– Ends –

Notes to picture editors:

1. Young eels.  © Uwe Kils bit.ly/2NaFStx.

2. Installing the new eel passes at Boarman Pond, Beaulieu. © Freshwater Habitats Trust

3. Boarman Pond, Beaulieu. © Freshwater Habitats Trust

Notes to editors:

The European Eel (Anguilla Anguilla), is now a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework and is listed as Critically Endangered on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 

Our Past, Our Future

Our Past, Our Future is a Landscape Partnership Scheme for the New Forest which, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is undertaking a range of projects to restore lost habitats, develop Forest skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the New Forest. The partnership focuses on the enclosed lands which surround the Open Forest.

The five-year scheme includes 21 projects and is being led by the New Forest National Park Authority working with several delivery and funding partners.

For more information about the Our Past, Our Future scheme, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/landscapepartnership

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect – Enjoy – Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:
-Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park – Protect.
-Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:
Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

Media Contact:

Lisa Reynolds, Communications Assistant
New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646639
Email: lisa.reynolds@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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