New environment research group

02 April 2012

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Aberystwyth University scientists and the Government have joined forces to turn the Dyfi Valley into a living research laboratory that could shine new light on how all the different aspects of our environment work together.

Some of Wales’s leading minds on the environment have set up the Dyfi Catchment and Woodland Research Platform, which was launched last week, to study how the land, water and air we breathe work together and how we interact with them.

Experts from Aberystwyth University and Forest Research in Wales aim to improve our understanding of the principles for managing the environment in the future by looking at how climate change affects the landscape and how people and wildlife interact with it.

Professor Mark Macklin, Director of the Centre for Catchment and Coastal Research, Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University, who is a co-founder of the new research platform, said, "Gathering environmental and socio-economic information is becoming increasingly important for understanding and managing multi-functional landscapes at a time of rapid environmental change.”

"The Dyfi Catchment and Woodland Research Platform will be of relevance to other catchment-scale studies in the UK and abroad and will be especially useful in relation to the new single body being developed in Wales."

The Environment and Sustainable Development Minister John Griffiths, said, "They provide food, water, energy, timber and a wide range of economic benefits. They are also the foundation of our stunning Welsh landscapes and coast, and a backdrop for our recreational activities.

"I welcome the establishment of the Dyfi Catchment and Woodland Research Platform and am sure it will make an important contribution to the Welsh Government’s aspirations to manage the environment in a more joined-up way, as set out in Sustaining a Living Wales."

As part of the project, which will encompass the entire Dyfi Valley from the headwaters of the river right down to the coast, all of the Welsh Government woodlands managed by Forestry Commission Wales have been designated as the "Welsh Research Forest".

Professor Hugh Evans, head of Forest Research in Wales, said, "The woodland component of this project will form an important element of the catchment-scale research platform which will build on the information already available from this environmentally-rich area.

"This integrated research and monitoring programme will cast a sharp focus on the relative roles of biodiversity, geology, geomorphology, hydrology, soils, vegetation, climate and human activities.

"We hope that data from ongoing and future research will provide answers to key questions, such as how trees influence the landscape, including water flow and quality, and provide a strong evidence base for managing our environment for everyone’s benefit."

In addition to underpinning the Welsh Government’s Living Wales strategy, the project will also have links to EcoDyfi, the sustainable land use initiative by farmers and other landowners.

The Dyfi valley comprises a wide range of habitats, from blanket bogs in the mountains, through woodland and farmland, down to coastal salt marshes, mud flats and sand dunes.

The Valley is one of only two areas in the United Kingdom designated as a biosphere by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

Biospheres are nominated by national governments and are internationally recognised areas in which people work to balance the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

Professor John Harries, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales and Professor of Earth Observation at Imperial College, London, described the initiative as "exciting and progressive".

"This programme is highly relevant to the new single environmental body being developed in Wales and will address many of the urgent environmental issues of the day, through using our natural diversity, our ability to connect to each other, and our capability for integrating electronic data."

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