Posted 12th Oct 2017 by Peter Byrne
A nationwide project has announced it will work in the Somerset Levels to conduct a range of ecological and cultural research
WetlandLIFE is a nationwide, three-year university-led project, which is funded by a number of UK research councils. It is aiming to support the development of better wetland assessment tools for use by site managers across the country. The tools ensure our wetlands are carefully managed and remain healthy despite challenges such as climate change. They will also be optimised for the wider benefit of communities living alongside them in terms of health and wellbeing.
Westhay Moor and Shapwick Heath have both been chosen as study sites because they offer examples of land use change in a rural setting, which have reverted into wetlands from agriculture and peat extractions. They also have a rich history and vibrant recreational use.
The WetlandLIFE team are working closely with site managers from Somerset Wildlife Trust and Natural England, along with communities in Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor in a wide variety of ways.
This includes investigating the human side of living alongside wetlands, along with the challenges that can arise from living near them. This will include locally-inspired stories, documentaries, artworks and photography exhibitions; coupled with more economic evaluation, social research and historical analysis which reveals the variety of values that are associated with wetlands, especially the role they can play in people's health and wellbeing.
A particular focus is on wetland mosquitoes, exploring how their ecological role sits alongside our perception and experiences of these insects.
Dr Tim Acott, from the University of Greenwich, said: "This project gives us a fantastic opportunity to develop practical guidelines for wetland management, reflecting a greater understanding of mosquito ecology alongside the importance of wetlands to local communities. Our research will help us support the human health and wellbeing benefits that wetlands can provide."
Dr Adriana Ford, Environmental Social Sciences Research Fellow at the University of Greenwich said: "We are delighted to be working in the Somerset Levels, in particular Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor. These wetlands are not only an important part of the landscape, but are also part of people’s lives and sense of place. We’re looking forward to working with local people to discover more about their relationships with these wetlands and that of the surrounding landscape."
Image courtesy of Matt Sweeting