The insects making a comeback in our lakes and rivers as mayflies, dragonflies and caddisflies surpass 1970s levels in remarkable recovery

  • Water-loving insects including dragonflies and mayflies make a comeback
  • Researchers find distribution of freshwater insects has surpassed 1970s levels
  • But spiders, centipedes and millipede population have all declined since 1970

Amid all the gloom about the state of Britain’s wildlife, there’s a glimmer of good news to be found in our rivers, ponds and lakes.

The population of water-loving insects, in decline since the 1970s, has staged a remarkable recovery.

And scientists think it is a result of measures to improve air and water quality brought in over the past half century.

The study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution found the distribution of freshwater insects such as mayflies, dragonflies and caddisflies have surpassed 1970s levels. A mayfly is pictured above

The researchers looked at the distribution of thousands of species between 1970 to 2015 – from dragonflies to ants and lichen – which have not been closely examined before, to see if their populations had slumped in the same way as those of birds, butterflies and mammals.

They found land-based non-insect invertebrates, such as spiders, centipedes and millipedes, had seen an overall decline of seven per cent since 1970.

But the study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution found the distribution of freshwater insects such as mayflies, dragonflies and caddisflies have surpassed 1970s levels.

That follows a decline by almost half from 1970 to 1994, the researchers said. 

But they also warned that the increases had to be seen against a backdrop of decline over two centuries.

Study co-author Professor Richard Gregory of University College London said: ‘Our findings demonstrate that policies designed to safeguard the natural environment are working and can yield positive change.’

Amid all the gloom about the state of Britain’s wildlife, there’s a glimmer of good news to be found in our rivers, ponds and lakes. The population of water-loving insects, in decline since the 1970s, has staged a remarkable recovery. The River Otter in Devon is pictured above

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