Ranunculus… The Truth

John Bailey

Active member
Feature Writer
Messages
82
Reaction score
172
RanClose.jpg


A couple of days back, I went for one of the more enlightening meetings of my life at the Wye & Usk Foundation’s HQ in Talgarth. There is so much to be said about this couple of hours that I am still digesting it all, but at the very least I think I have an answer to the question of the ‘Missing Ranunculus Debate’ on the Wye. Simon Evans is now the driving force behind WUF, especially so I guess after the sad loss of Stephen Marsh Smith, and a force he certainly is. After two hours of his company, I really felt like I’d gone through two terms of Uni lectures, so hot was my pen, so befuddled my brain. But I think I “got” the ranunculus issue… this is all according to SE!!!

WUFMidRangeLand.JPG


WUFClose.JPG

The WUF HQ in Talgarth

Ranunculus on the Wye has served the river colossally for all our lives. It has been a habitat for smaller fish and fry, and for huge amounts of invertebrates, and it has also given the river structure, collected sediment, and acted as a massive filter bed. Sun and nutrients have long begun to produce algae by the start of May, BUT then the ranunculus has grown up and the blooms have been destroyed by the invertebrates within it. This year, and last, without the ranunculus, this algae has been a huge and well-publicized problem.

Where has the ranunculus gone then? Between October 2018 and February 2020, there were four 5 metre floods on the river, whereas you might expect ONE such deluge every twenty five years. To make matters worse, the flood in February ‘20 was a monster, the biggest in decades, if not centuries, and it ripped out most of any ranunculus left.

RanCloser.jpg


RanClosest.JPG


Come that spring, a very dry, hot May inhibited growth of what was left, and what did emerge was destroyed by the remnants of the swan population. (And canoeists I wonder, Simon?) In short, this was the perfect storm, as it were, and 97% of Wye ranunculus perished in the blink of an eye.

The future? Upland land use has to be reformed so more water can be held back there, rather than disgorging it unchecked into the headwaters. That’s for starters. More ideas to come… from you? From WUF? Let’s keep this going?

RanDistance.jpg


The post 'Ranunculus... The Truth' first appeared in Fish&Fly Magazine.

Continue reading...
 

OURTREV

Well-known member
Messages
367
Reaction score
274
Location
Newent on Wye!
This post was written to provoke a response and it will get several I would think.

Though the idea that the floods over the last two winters no doubt had some effect on the ranunculus growing in the River Wye the real reason for the death of the water plant was light levels.
Like many on this forum we grow plants to various levels of competence in our gardens and one of the essentials of plant growth is light. If I grow water plants in my pond at home if I contrive to deny them light they will die. That is exactly what has happened in the Wye for the last couple of years. There is no doubt that there has been more fertiliser in the River because of all the undeniable pollution getting in there and were the water to be clear we would have have the best crop of ranunculus ever but the algae meant that there was no light from about end of May onwards.

I know from my years of being a water plant buyer for a big chain of aquatic shops that plant growth is at its maximum in late April, May and June just when the algal blooms were taking hold.

I can show anyone who cares to look where you can still see the remains of the ranunculus in the River (well I could up until the current spate) the stunted plants were brown and covered in sludge and would not grow. However in late June the Wye bottomed out and once the levels of pollution got itself into a steady state and the water became clear the ranunculus started to grow and could clearly be seen in the fast water in the sections I fish at Ross. Anybody should realise that the filth come off the land in pulses dependant on the rainfall so if there is no rain for weeks or months the levels of pollution although still significant will plateau.

I dare say that a whole load of experts can be wheeled out to shoot down everything I say but I stand by what I've said and believe it just as firmly as any other theory put forward by those who are intellectually my superiors.
 
Last edited:

John Bailey

Active member
Feature Writer
Messages
82
Reaction score
172
IMG_0976.JPG


IMG_0982.JPG


I’m heartened that this last piece of Ranunculus news raised discussion, because I believe it to be important. Naturally. Of course, OURTREV, you are quite correct that light is vital to weed growth, and several weeks ago I wrote similar words.

Water keeper James Buckley came to the Wye, investigated one of the very few patches of ranunculus we could find and pronounced it to be dying, largely through suffocation. The fronds were covered in slime and the roots were turning from healthy white to brown. The rocks around were equally coated in a noxious substance that smelled when dried out in the sun.

Is there a double whammy here? A case of ranunculus being weakened by floods and finished off by pollution induced light starvation? But, unlike OURTREV, I am not a grower of ranunculus and I’d welcome continued comments. Most importantly, what is the way forward on this?

Where did ranunculus come from and when did it arrive in Britain? I’ve ransacked the internet for no answers, and found nothing definitive at all. I have seen plenty in France, and I seem to remember it features in 19th century British art. But again, I’d like to know.

IMG_1049.JPG


IMG_1051.JPG
 

keirstream

Well-known member
Messages
8,335
Reaction score
4,582
Location
Stirling
Water shedding rapidly from the uplands can only be through human intervention.
Am I to assume afforestation ditching?
Or windfarm ditching on top of the former?
The former only is bad enough but with the latter added to the mix the results are devastating and,
as usual, planners have given no thought towards mitigating the effects of these types of thoughtless interventions on the eco systems.
The obvious starting point is to campaign for concentric ditching and when you get agreement on that, turn the knife and force longer term solutions.
My experience in Scotland is that river boards just accept it and then oversee the consequential damage which eventually leads to fish population destruction.
So, then we fund them to look "All At Sea":(:(:confused::confused:
 

peterchilton

Well-known member
Messages
2,439
Reaction score
1,088
Location
Mid Wales
The first question surely must be, what kind of ranunculus do we have in the Wye and is it different in different parts of the river? Different types have different survival strategies. So please do ask Evans this question Mr Bailey, before someone builds a house on sandy ground as many 'scientists' do.

From personal observation there is a pool called Florence, on the lower river, the head is a broken down weir and there is a strong flow at any height through the next approx 80 yards, it then turns into a lovely fly run with easy wading and deeper water towards the far bank. Normally you wouldn't be able to fish past the first 80 yards post June 1st because the river would be full of Ranunculus with some streamer weed. This year I waded there and no ranunculus breaking the surface but when you looked into the water you could still see the dead / dying ranunculus between the boulders. I intended to return before the season end with my SLR and polarising filter, of course the river is now too high but i will go back if it drops.

In the words of Geoff Maynard, on this forum but a few days ago

It amazes me that a plant which has thrived in a spate river for thousands of years is suddenly declared too weak-rooted to survive a heavy spate! What? Have you ever tried uprooting ranunculus? Its virtually impossible, you might tear it off but not uproot it. Something else killed it.

 

peterchilton

Well-known member
Messages
2,439
Reaction score
1,088
Location
Mid Wales
This post was written to provoke a response and it will get several I would think.

Though the idea that the floods over the last two winters no doubt had some effect on the ranunculus growing in the River Wye the real reason for the death of the water plant was light levels.
Like many on this forum we grow plants to various levels of competence in our gardens and one of the essentials of plant growth is light. If I grow water plants in my pond at home if I contrive to deny them light they will die. That is exactly what has happened in the Wye for the last couple of years. There is no doubt that there has been more fertiliser in the River because of all the undeniable pollution getting in there and were the water to be clear we would have have the best crop of ranunculus ever but the algae meant that there was no light from about end of May onwards.

I know from my years of being a water plant buyer for a big chain of aquatic shops that plant growth is at its maximum in late April, May and June just when the algal blooms were taking hold.

I can show anyone who cares to look where you can still see the remains of the ranunculus in the River (well I could up until the current spate) the stunted plants were brown and covered in sludge and would not grow. However in late June the Wye bottomed out and once the levels of pollution got itself into a steady state and the water became clear the ranunculus started to grow and could clearly be seen in the fast water in the sections I fish at Ross. Anybody should realise that the filth come off the land in pulses dependant on the rainfall so if there is no rain for weeks or months the levels of pollution although still significant will plateau.

I dare say that a whole load of experts can be wheeled out to shoot down everything I say but I stand by what I've said and believe it just as firmly as any other theory put forward by those who are intellectually my superiors.
Bear in mind that as the volume of the river shrinks the pollution can become a greater percentage offsetting the surge due to rainfall.
 

peterchilton

Well-known member
Messages
2,439
Reaction score
1,088
Location
Mid Wales
Evans said

6th Sept 2008 • 100 year flood • 2-3m over bank height• Damage to fence
lines and water gates
• Repaired by landowers
but we still had ranunculus the following year ;)
 
Messages
77
Reaction score
7
Location
Monmouth
IMO, too many experts trying to fob us all off. The Wye has seen many floods but the ranunculus has remained. Any angler fishing the Florence pool can vouch. I can vouch that most of the river has been pea green with poor visibility this year. Poor water quality is the culprit for the lack of weed, not the flooding.
 

Handel

Well-known member
Messages
2,417
Reaction score
775
Location
London
Water shedding rapidly from the uplands can only be through human intervention.
Am I to assume afforestation ditching?
Or windfarm ditching on top of the former?
The former only is bad enough but with the latter added to the mix the results are devastating and,
as usual, planners have given no thought towards mitigating the effects of these types of thoughtless interventions on the eco systems.
The obvious starting point is to campaign for concentric ditching and when you get agreement on that, turn the knife and force longer term solutions.
My experience in Scotland is that river boards just accept it and then oversee the consequential damage which eventually leads to fish population destruction.
So, then we fund them to look "All At Sea":(:(:confused::confused:
In 2013 some genius in Welsh Government decided it would be a good idea to merge Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and Forestry Commission Wales to form Natural Resources Wales usually referred to as NRW or Not Really Working. So the environmental regulators find themselves unduly influenced by the tree planters and you can see what that means.
Much of the upland afforestation in South and West Wales increases the acid levels of the rivers that flow from those uplands. Left to their own devices these rivers have an acid strength similar to vinegar. This was ameliorated unintentionally by farmers liming their fields, something that doesn't happen any longer it seems. More recently these rivers have been dosed twice a year with lime. NRW is responsible for these liming operations but I can think of one large river in Wales where liming has stopped because the forestry people have banned access.
There is certainly plenty of afforestation ditching.
 
Top