RESEARCH will be carried out in Yorkshire this summer into growing concerns that climate change is leading to dwindling stocks of grayling and trout in the region’s rivers.

Fish populations in traditional breeding grounds such as the River Ure and River Swale in North Yorkshire have declined sharply in recent years, after water flows fell dramatically.

River levels earlier this month in areas such as Wensleydale fell to those usually seen at the height of summer, after one of the warmest spring periods on record.

Studies will be conducted by the Environment Agency in June to look at trout and grayling numbers in the River Ure in Wensleydale, identified as one of the areas worst hit.

The density of juvenile trout has differed significantly each year, numbers falling by as much as a third in traditional breeding grounds.

The Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust is sponsoring a three-year research project, which is being carried out by Durham University PhD student David Higgins, to analyse the changing fish populations in Wensleydale.

Trust chairman, John Shillcock, said: “Climate change is clearly implicated in these changes in fish stocks, although to what degree is something which we are looking at closely.

“What is clear though is that trout and grayling populations are being greatly affected.”

The growing problem of flash flooding has been compounded by warm weather which has left the ground rock hard and caused rainfall to run off into streams and tributaries at a faster rate.

Young trout have been found up to 20 miles away from their normal spawning grounds in the Nidd and Swale after being washed downstream by a sudden surge in water flow.

Problems have been compounded by drainage ditches which have been dug on peat uplands to try and make the soil more fertile by improving water run-off.

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