Thursday 7th April, 2022

Great news, we have the funds for the study, which will now start in June 2022.

Our thanks to everyone who has supported this initiative. We look forward to publishing the results as soon as they start coming in.

Thursday 27th January, 2022

In partnership with Cardiff University, the Wye & Usk Foundation is setting up a PhD study to establish the causes of the Wye’s severe algal blooms.

The study is due to start in March and run for three years. It will provide the quantity and quality of data needed to show causation with certainty. Unlike other PhDs, the data will be available to everyone from the outset, rather than after peer review at the end of the three years.

Why is there a need for a PhD?

To many people, the cause of the blooms appears obvious.

But until some very complex questions are answered with certainty and any lingering doubts over causation quashed, it will be difficult for us and others to know where to focus restoration work and obtain the support needed to carry it out.

One noticeable element of the recent Environmental Audit Committee report on pollution in English rivers was the lack water quality monitoring and data. This chimes with an admission by Natural Resources Wales last January that their monitoring efforts were not sufficient to establish the cause of the algal blooms, nor was that situation like to improve due to budget cuts.

This means that any work to solve the river’s water quality problems cannot be targeted effectively.

We need to go into this study with an open mind. It will prove beyond doubt the causes of the severe algal blooms that are so detrimental to the Wye's ecology

In short, this PhD is essential to establish the following:

  • Determine the key nutrients that trigger algae blooms in the River Wye, including the complex roles of various forms of phosphorus and to what extent other factors such as silicon, nitrogen, and temperature influence their generation.
  • What actions we need to take to mitigate the formation of algae blooms in the main stem.
  • The location where the blooms start and what is driving the explosive genesis and if this has changed from the studies in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
  • Using the latest environmental DNA techniques, we will determine how the species composition of the algal bloom changes as you move downriver and over time. Each of the many species have their own ideal physical and chemical conditions. This will further inform the most effective actions we can take to stop their proliferation.

The Foundation will:

  • Go into this study with an open mind. There is strong speculation about the causes of the algal blooms but this study may reveal some unexpected results.
  • Support a student at Cardiff University through a 3-year PhD. This will allow access to the university’s equipment and knowledge.
  • Collect complimentary data through a combination of methods including our riverside analyser which continuously monitors phosphorus and citizen scientists. Begin to target and change our work from the very start of this study to achieve our objective of solving the Wye algal blooms.
  • Attend regular meetings with Cardiff University throughout the project to assess the data using an online data sharing portal. This will ensure that findings relevant to understanding causes of harmful algal blooms, and hence potential solutions to the problem can be disseminated in a timely manner and as frequently as sampling is carried out.

We need to raise (or secure pledges) for a minimum of £32,000 in the first year for this 3-year study to happen. Any help you can give would be very welcome. We have opened an appeal page here to which donations can be made.

The Wye is at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness when it comes to river pollution. We hope there will be people willing to put their name to something that enables the changes that are so desperately needed to win the fight for good water quality in all rivers. Without conclusive evidence of causation, we will probably not get very far and the longer it takes, the greater the risk of long-term ecological decline in our precious river Wye.

Support the Wye Algae PhD