Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Marwell Zoo BioBlitz -13th September 2014 Results

An update from Owen Middleton to his previous article about a BioBlitz, or wildlife survey, at Marwell Zoo.

Conservation at Marwell Zoo is of top priority and considering it acts as a home to over 140 exotic species of mammal, from Pigmy Hippos to Amur Leopard, it is a great place to see how important international conservation is to promote global biodiversity. It is sometimes easy to forget about our smaller global inhabitants, the invertebrates. At Marwell, you can also see many exotic invertebrates from Hissing Cockroaches to a whole, intricate, colony of Leaf Cutter Ants. The display of these fascinating creatures is also vital for the promotion of our own local biodiversity from fungi to invertebrates to larger mammals.

A BioBlitz is an event that sees the integration of the public working alongside professional Ecologists in a day of capturing and identification our local wildlife in a specific area. On September 13th, Marwell Zoo hosted there first ever BioBlitz to discover the local biodiversity around different areas within the zoo. To conduct this event at a zoo was an extremely interesting idea as local biodiversity isn’t one that’s often considered at zoos whereas global biodiversity is most considered by the visiting public. This was a unique approach to the promotion of biodiversity on a local scale in comparison to the countless exotic animals already seen by the public.

After collecting data from a variety of habitats on several trips, including a freshwater pond, the Amphibian Arc and the Wildflower habitat, the data was taken by Marwell professionals and analysed over the coming weeks. It was eventually revealed that the hard efforts of the keen wildlife volunteers managed to identify and record 267 species from around the park. It can be seen from Figure 1 below that the range of species varied considerably, from the most diverse being flowering plants to the less common terrestrial mammals including field mice. The range of the animals collected and recorded looks to be extremely positive and shows great biodiversity within the park, alongside the diverse exotic animals displayed.

Figure 1 (Above): Local biodiversity at Marwell Zoo as collected on the 13th September 2014
(click for larger view)

Even though the results have been promising, it could prove in the future to be even greater. With improvements to the event, including more habitats searched, longer periods of searching at each area and searching at different times of the day, it could cause the identification of an even greater range of species that spans birds as well as plants, fungi and invertebrates. This being said, it is a strong data set to use and will be of great use to compare in future years to come to judge declines or (hopefully) increases in our local biodiversity.

Personally, I would recommend BioBlitz to anyone. It is a great way to get to know your local wildlife as well as feeling a sense of accomplishment towards a complete data set with actual results that will benefit the area of interest. Marwell Zoo is just one of many of these events that occur throughout the year and anybody with an interest in nature should aim to get involved.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Outstanding projects recognised at CPRE Hampshire Countryside Awards

On Friday evening, 26th September 2014, teams from 19 shortlisted countryside projects gathered with more than 100 guests at the eighth annual CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) Hampshire Countryside Awards ceremony at Itchen Abbas Village Hall, Winchester.
The prestigious awards, run by CPRE Hampshire in conjunction with Hampshire Fare and the Hampshire Enterprise Circle, celebrate the county’s diverse, living countryside. The principal supporters of the scheme, Steve’s Leaves, are pioneering farmers who grow and package tasty, nutritious baby leaves such as watercress, rocket and pea shoots. They employ nature friendly farming, where 10% of the land is dedicated to nature and the creation of habitats to encourage wildlife.

The Earl of Malmesbury, President of CPRE Hampshire introduced the ceremony and Steve Brine, MP for Winchester presented each of the four category winners with an engraved plaque.

In the Community and Voluntary category, supported by The Southern Co-operative, the winner was the Brook Meadow Conservation Group, Emsworth. Gemma Lacey, head of sustainability, explained what had impressed the judges most during their visit: “This award is in recognition of the group’s sustained work in energising their community, developing a working membership base and drawing in young people to support local conservation activity. Brook Meadow is very close to the town centre and is now a widely appreciated amenity giving people a respect and appreciation of ‘their’ countryside and offering a balance of conservation and recreation.”

Dee Haas CPRE Hants (L), Gemma Lacey of the Southern Co-operative with Brook Meadow team and Steve Brine MP

Anstey Junior School in Alton won the Young People category for its Community Growing Project. Dr Steve Rothwell of Steve’s Leaves, category sponsor said: “The judges were impressed with the commitment of all of the pupils in the school, which reflected their enthusiasm, understanding and the benefit they have gained from the project in learning how to grow vegetables and interacting with their neighbours. The children we met gave a superb presentation outlining the project, which was followed up with a knowledgeable guided tour and finished with a succinct summary. Throughout they were able to answer all of the questions put to them. The professionalism of the school was apparent throughout.”

The winner in the Rural Enterprise category, sponsored by Dutton Gregory Solicitors, was Blackwood Forest Holidays, a project established by Forest Holidays and the Forestry Commission in woodlands near Winchester. Matt Gilks, associate solicitor, said: “The project highlights the tension between the preservation and the enterprise imperatives which challenge all of us as we try to stand up for the countryside and preserve its inherent and irreplaceable beauty, but at the same time, endeavour to ensure there remain the conditions for sustainable economic development in the countryside for all those living and working in the locality as well as its visitors.”

Finally, the winning project in a new category introduced for 2014 - Green Buildings, supported by Radian, was awarded to the Avon Tyrrell Boat House in the New Forest. Jonathan Rickard, head of design and compliance, explained: “The boat house is a well-conceived, simple structure that uses locally sourced and natural materials, combined with a stunning green roof and well integrated renewable technology to power and provide hot water for this boat house, training and welfare facility forming part of the youth training centre at Avon Tyrrell. The building itself uses a robust and simple modern aesthetic appropriate for our times and a visual display provides users with a clear image of its impressive energy use and generation, further underpinning the building’s green credentials. It will surely inspire and motivate users and visitors alike.”

Steve Brine, MP said: “I am so lucky to live in the Hampshire countryside and pinch myself everyday that I represent this constituency. I know you are all proud to support CPRE Hampshire.”  

The following four projects were Highly Commended and received a signed certificate:
Community and VoluntaryRound About Café, Mansbridge, Southampton
Young People - The Woodland Walk, Kings Worthy Primary School
Rural Enterprise - Piecing Together the Hampshire Food Jigsaw, HC3S Hampshire County Council Catering Services
Green Buildings - Otterbourne Wildlife Lodge (The O.W.L.), Otterbourne Church of England Primary School

The Countryside Awards 2015 will be open for applications in the New Year.
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Notes to editors

1.         Photographs taken by Jason Allen Photography at the awards ceremony are available by emailing Keren Burney at Compege:
2.         For further information and photographs of all the winning and highly commended projects please contact CPRE Hampshire – or 01962 841897.

3.         Steve’s Leaves is a brand of Vitacress Salads Ltd. Further information on Steve’s Leaves can be found on Make friends on Facebook and follow Steve’s Leaves @stevesleaves on Twitter.

4.         Useful websites:-

5.         CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) Hampshire stands up for the Hampshire countryside. The charity’s office is based at St. Cross, Winchester. Its members strive to promote the beauty, tranquillity and diversity of the Hampshire countryside by the sustainable use of land and other resources in town and country, and encouraging biodiversity and the well-being of rural communities. Find the charity on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.

For media enquiries, please contact:                      
Keren Burney, Media and Communications              Tel:      01730 894123
Officer, CPRE Hampshire                                         Mobile: 07876 780065

Michael Rescorle, Director,                                        Tel:      01962 841897
CPRE Hampshire                                                       Mobile: 07810 844112