Friday, 27 June 2014
A student at the University of Worcester is launching a major piece of research to help conserve important species in the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Ecology student, Dragos Hritulac, will use state-of-the-art technology to track different species living in the Malvern Hills and help plan where new habitats could be created to ensure their survival.
The Malvern Hills provide
a home for an extensive number of threatened species, including the dormouse,
bullfinch and lesser horseshoe bat, as well as habitats such as traditional
orchards, lowland meadows and mixed deciduous woods.
Despite being designated
an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1959, which affords some protection to
species and habitats, there have been many changes which have led to the
fragmentation of important habitats in the area. In turn, this has resulted in biodiversity
hotspots and the isolation of habitats, which is potentially damaging the
entire ecosystem and leading to the long-term detriment of a species.
University of Worcester
Senior Lecturer, Dr Duncan Westbury (pictured above with Dragos), who is supervising the research, along
with Robbie Austrums, said: “Farmers and land owners are encouraged to provide
habitats for target species in the area, but using our novel approach, the main
aim of the project is to provide guidance on where such habitats should be
located to facilitate the movement and expansion of species within the
landscape. For example, the location of new woodlands and hedgerows might be
proposed within the AONB to increase the abundance and dispersal of dormice.”
The Malvern Hills AONB Partnership
and Worcestershire Wildlife Trust will be involved in the research as part of
their ‘Making space for nature’ project.
Dr Westbury said “This is
a very exciting project and presents a wonderful opportunity for one of our
undergraduate students to be involved with such important research. Rather than
tracking the actual movement of species within the area, Dragos will be using
Geographical Informational Systems (GIS) to explore the connectivity between
habitats for a number of key species and its dispersal capabilities.”
Dragos’ research is being
funded by the University’s Vacation Research Assistant Scheme, which helps
students with extracurricular work over the summer.
Dr Westbury said: “The University of Worcester is strongly
committed to supporting students through the Vacation Research Assistant Scheme
and this project demonstrates an excellent collaboration between the University
and local stakeholders, and provides another example of how the University is
helping to improve the local environment.”