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Study reveals environmental impact of Kakhovka Dam breach
83,000 hectares of land, the size of Kyiv, has been flooded downstream by the dam breach.
The findings will support biodiversity recovery in the region.

A rapid assessment of the Kakhovka Dam region in southern Ukraine has revealed the environmental and biodiversity damage caused by the flooding.

With the area still an active warzone, researchers from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) and HR Wallingford had to use the latest technology to perform the assessment within weeks of the dam being breached in June.

Previous studies have only been possible after wars, limiting the potential for targeted biodiversity restoration within post-conflict recovery planning.

The study aimed to examine the region’s ecology, identifying the protected habitats and species that might be affected by the breach. This would enable early action in future conflicts.

The report found that 83,000 hectares of land, the size of Kyiv, had been flooded downstream by the dam breach.

This left the Kakhovka Reservoir almost completely emptied, causing thousands of fish to be washed out or stranded. An estimated 28,000 crucian carp, totalling 95,000 tonnes, are thought to be impacted.

Of the 567 species affected by a range of hazards, 28 are considered to be globally threatened or worse. This includes the Great Bustard, the Harbour porpoise and the European mink.

The slender-billed curlew, which is on the verge of extinction, could also have been affected.

UKCEH estimated that half a million hectares of protected freshwater and terrestrial habitats, both upstream and downstream of the dam, were exposed to hazards. As well as erosion, 1,000 potential sources of pollution were identified, such as petrol stations and landfills.

The report also identified that the flooding could have long-term effects on the environment, human health and the economy. Researchers also recommended future action.

Prof Bryan Spears of UKCEH said: “We hope that our assessment provides a baseline against which to assess biodiversity and habitat impacts and recovery related to the Kakhovka Dam breach.

“It is now important that the results of this and other assessments are scrutinised fully by the wider scientific community, allowing biodiversity restoration to be incorporated within post-conflict recovery planning at an early stage.”

The full report is available here, with a commentary in the journal Nature, Ecology and Evolution.

Image © Reuters/Inna Varenytsia

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RCVS Knowledge appoints Veterinary Evidence editor-in-chief

News Story 1
 RCVS Knowledge has welcomed Professor Peter Cockcroft as editor-in-chief for Veterinary Evidence.

A world-renowned expert in evidence-based veterinary medicine, Prof Cockcroft will lead the strategic development and editorial quality of the open-access journal. He was previously in the role from 2017-2020.

Katie Mantell, CEO of RCVS Knowledge, said: "We are excited about the extensive knowledge of evidence-based veterinary medicine and clinical veterinary research that Peter brings, and we look forward to working with him over this next phase of the journal's development." 

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Topics covered will include the transmission cycle, pathology and pathogenesis, clinical signs (including signs seen in recent BTV-3 cases in the Netherlands), and control and prevention.

The session, which will take place from 6pm to 7.30pm, is part of Defra's 'Plan, Prevent and Protect' webinar series, which are hosted by policy officials, epidemiologists and veterinary professionals from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The bluetongue session will also feature insights from experts from The Pirbright Institute.

Those attending will have the opportunity to ask questions. Places on the webinar can be booked online.