The North Devon Biosphere’s Pledge for Nature project is teaming up with Westcountry Rivers Trust’s (WRT) Citizen Science Investigations (Westcountry CSI) to develop a network of river Citizen Scientists across the North Devon Biosphere.

The area’s rivers and streams need monitoring as they are extremely vulnerable to pollution from issues such as run-off of nutrients and sediments from agriculture as well as domestic and industrial waste (e.g., from ball clay quarries, anaerobic digestion plants, dairy industry, road run-off etc.), with far-reaching environmental, economic and social consequences from source to sea.

The Environment Agency’s latest (2019) assessment of the ecological status of the 100 waterbodies in the Biosphere concluded that only 15 of these were in Good condition, a decline from 18 in 2016, while none had a Good chemical status.

Iconic species like the freshwater pearl mussel are at risk of extinction in the Biosphere and the latest assessments put the Atlantic salmon as “at risk” in the Torridge and “probably at risk” in the Taw.

Lydia Deacon, Westcountry CSI officer, said: “We’ve joined forces with Pledge for Nature as the Biosphere’s rivers and streams are in trouble and need our urgent help.

“By volunteering with Westcountry CSI, people can monitor water quality, record wildlife and invasive species, and identify pollution sources, all of which will support our charity’s mission to restore and protect the rivers, lakes, and estuaries of the Westcountry for the benefit of nature, people, and local economies and the water bodies in the Biosphere.”

The North Devon Biosphere Reserve’s ambitious Nature Recovery Plan aims to improve the condition of the region’s rivers and streams through habitat restoration and reducing pollution.

Emily Willoughby from Pledge for Nature said: “One way to achieve this is by increasing public participation and awareness so that there are more “eyes on the river” to monitor river condition and identify pollution issues.

“Collecting regular water quality samples not only produces good data to identify areas of concern, but also helps people to get to know their river and identify positive and negative changes, influencing action where needed.”

If you would like to help monitor and protect these vital habitats by becoming a river citizen scientist via Pledge for Nature, please complete a ‘Create a Pledge’ form using this link:

In ‘Description of Activity’ please include the name of the river/stream you would be willing to monitor.

All are welcome to join, whether you are an experienced citizen scientist or just want to learn more about your local river.

You will be sent details about the Westcountry CSI’s online and field training sessions to be held in the coming months.

For anyone not in the North Devon Biosphere area, simply visit for more info on how to get involved.

North Devon’s Biosphere Service is a partnership organisation based in Barnstaple and hosted by Devon County Council. It is core funded by Devon County Council, North Devon Council and Torridge District Council. The Service co-ordinates and delivers activities set out in the North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve Strategy and works with a wide range of local, regional, national and international partners.  More information about the work of the service can be found on its technical site

North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve is the first new-style UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the UK. It exists to inspire a positive future by connecting people and nature.  The Biosphere in North Devon is a special place with wonderful wildlife and landscapes, and an economy and social structure still strongly linked to the environment but it is also more than that. It is a community of people working together to champion life and the environment, empower people to get involved and explore new ways of living that address local and global challenges.