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Could your pond offer a home to the crays?

Scientists at the University of Leeds are on the look out for willing volunteers who could provide a home for a dying breed of aquatic invertebrates.

The white-clawed crayfish is native to British waters and scientists believe it plays a vital role in preserving the natural biodiversity of our inland waters. Researchers from the University of Leeds now need to find several large ponds into which the animal can be introduced and then study the effect their presence has over several months.

Neal Haddaway, a PhD student at the Faculty of Biological Sciences says; “This is a great opportunity to take part in a unique backyard conservation project. Our studies will help us understand the role this creature plays in keeping water clean, keeping the numbers of unwelcome pests down and generally managing local ecosystems. Volunteers who offer up the use of their ponds will be making a real difference to a British conservation project.”

Declining numbers of the crayfish are found in the several areas of Yorkshire including the Wharfe, Upper Aire, Upper Ure, Swale and some streams to the north of Leeds. In the 1970’s new species were introduced to these waters in the hope of enhancing food supplies for fish but the American signal crayfish eat vast quantities of snails and mayfly larvae, disrupting the existing food-chain. In addition to being more predatory in this way, they also brought with them a plague that has devastated the local population. The white-clawed crayfish now faces extinction if researchers fail to find a way to save it.

Dr Alison Dunn says; “We believe that these creatures play a fundamental part in maintaining the ecosystems contained within our streams and rivers, if the white crayfish are lost then plant and animal biodiversity could be badly affected. It could become extinct within the next ten years if we do not act now. ”

Neal Haddaway is hoping to find ponds in gardens and on farms that already have some wildlife in them and do not have a plastic lining. The ponds need to be between two to five metres across, but less than 15 metres and be at least five years old. After the white-clawed crayfish have been introduced then the pond-life and water quality will be tested on a regular basis for any changes that seem to occur as a result of their being there.

Anyone who is interested in taking part in this project can contact Neal by emailing

Jo Kelly | alfa
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