CEP Research

GIS Database

Current research on the Colne estuary includes the establishment of a role to design and construct a GIS database of all the work carried out on the Colne estuary by the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex.

Dr Steve McMellor was appointed to this role in Spring 2009 and will work closely with the stakeholders as well as with researchers at the University to develop the database so that it will be a useful tool to aid the management of the Colne estuary. Once populated with the data held by the University, the database will be queried to identify gaps in the knowledge of estuarine processes. The database will also provide supporting information to various stakeholders within the estuary and identify areas where gaps in the knowledge exist. There will also be opportunities for the data to be made available for external agencies to utilise.

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Over the last 30 years the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex has built up a substantial volume of knowledge about the Colne estuary, its biology, ecology and physiology, as well as more recent work about the socio-economic value of the estuary. The Department also utilises the estuary and its habitats in the teaching of its degree programs.

However, although the majority of this research has been published in respected peer-reviewed scientific journals, the majority of this work is not currently easily available and accessible to stakeholders of the estuary, including those with the responsibility to manage the estuary. The Colne Estuary Partnership GIS database will provide a central point for the collation and dissemination of this information, to the benefit of those organisations and stakeholders involved in the estuary.

The university has carried out research into many aspects of the estuary including the cycling of nutrients, pollution, ecology of saltmarshes, invertebrate communities, birds, bacteria and viruses, the flora and fauna as well as many other aspects of estuarine processes. Follow link for a full list of publications relating to the Colne estuary and surrounding habitats.

Faecal pollution in the Colne

Deterioration in water quality due to faecal contamination can limit production of shell fisheries within an estuary such as the Colne.

Indicators of such pollution were monitored by Dr Layla Miller within the Colne over a two year period to determine levels of contamination.

Bacterial concentrations were found to decline down the estuary. The 'fingerprint' of indicators used suggested strongly that human faecal contamination was the major cause of poor shellfish water quality in the mid and upper estuary.

Experiments also found the levels of E.coli in shellfish can change rapidly and are highly variable.


Native Oyster distribution in the Colne

The European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) is known to occur widely in the greater Thames estuary and the Blackwater, but little is known about their distribution in the Colne.

Recent surveys by Malcolm Hardy found a patchy distribution throughout the Colne estuary, typically associated with a rich fauna of invertebrates. This work suggested that a significant reproductive population exists within the Colne.

The Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) was also found to be abundant, although data suggested that there was niche partitioning between the two oyster species, meaning that naturally breeding populations of the introduced species were not excluding the native species from the estuary.

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