Page last updated at 07:21 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 08:21 UK

Canal wildlife health a mystery

Man running by canal near Mile End, east London
London's canals act as an oasis for wildlife in the concrete cityscape

Experts have no idea how wildlife along London's river and canal network is faring because not enough volunteers are taking part in an annual survey.

Halfway through British Waterways' yearly survey, the number of creatures spotted on London riverbanks appears much lower than in other cities.

Ecologists say there is no reason for London to have fewer animals and say there are not enough volunteers.

They urged people to join in to create a full picture of riverbank health.

British Waterways ecologist Leela O'Dea said: "The canals, rivers, docks and reservoirs of London are teeming with wildlife.

"We are calling upon the public to help us map where the various species are located across the capital."

'Out-spotted'

She continued: "We are encouraging people to get out and about, enjoy a walk by the water and tell us what they see.

"At the moment it seems Londoners are being out-spotted by the nature lovers of the South West, the Midlands and Yorkshire."

There are more than 100 miles of canals and 110 acres of dockland in London.

But if too few people take part in the survey, the snapshot of London's wildlife stocks will be incomplete.

It means some species could have begun to dwindle - with scientists ignorant of the demise and unable to act.

A spotting guide can be downloaded from British Waterways' website to identify the birds, insects and amphibians living along canals.

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