Geography, Earth and environment at Brighton

Last of the summer whine…..

Researchers from the University of Brighton’s School of Environment and Technology have been busy trampling through marshes and peat bogs since the beginning of December as part of the initial fieldwork phase of the WetlandLIFE project.

WetlandLIFE is a three year interdisciplinary project funded by the AHRC, ESRC and NERC through the ‘Valuing Nature’ programme ( ). The WetlandLIFE team are studying the cultural, historical and economic values of wetland spaces across England, with case study sites in Bedfordshire, the Somerset Levels and the Humber Estuary, together with an ecological focus on mosquitoes to refine our understanding of their importance within these habitats.

Tower Hide: Shapwick Heath, Somerset Levels

As SET Research Fellow on the project, Dr Mary Gearey, explains: “Mosquitoes are hugely important for wetland ecosystems, as a food source for fish, bats and birds and also as pollinators for a wide range of plant life. As climate change warms our atmosphere, and increases its ability to hold moisture, there is every likelihood that mosquito populations will continue to thrive within English wetlands. Our project seeks to understand how these potentially expanding mosquito populations can be balanced against encouraging people to use and enjoy wetland spaces for their health and wellbeing.”

Joining forces with Greenwich University to undertake empirical social science fieldwork, the Brighton team are currently immersing themselves within three key wetland ecosystems within England; Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor on the Somerset Levels; the Millennial and Priory Country Parks in Bedfordshire and Alkborough Flats in Lincolnshire. At this initial stage the Brighton team are familiarising themselves with these uniquely different landscapes – the rural peatlands which sit under Glastonbury Tor’s gaze and the urban infill gravel pits of Bedfordshire with the riverine floodplains where the Humber and Trent rivers meet the next venue in January 2018.

“It’s been so wonderful to meet the team of Rangers in Somerset and Bedfordshire who take care of these sites” explains Mary “and to meet the volunteers, walkers, birders and bat club members who cherish these unique spaces. Even in wet, cold, windy and sleeting conditions I’ve met people enjoying being in nature – whatever the weather throws at them. The mosquitos are in hibernation at this time of year, giving us a chance to explore these sites before they wake up and greet us in the Spring. In the meantime I’ve been capturing the beauty of these spaces via my camera phone – all contributing to our online photographic essay. See – we welcome all contributions, just send in your wetlands photos.”

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Stephanie Thomson • December 12, 2017

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