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Morecambe Bay comes under the spotlight from St Andrews University
SCIENTISTS from the University of St Andrews have been working around the Morecambe Bay coastline to investigate the increasing demands placed upon nature by a growing population.
The Scottish team is looking at natural systems, such as mudflats, and assessing the role they play in the purification of water, the production of food and protection of the coast.
They are also looking at how they create wildlife habitats and recreational space for people.
The research team was last week studying sites at West Plain, near Flookburgh, Cartmel Sands and Warton Sands, and is set to return again on Saturday.
The aim is to find a way of managing land so that it continues to benefit from nature. Data collected will be used to establish why a diverse population of microbes, plants and animals is so important.
Professor David Paterson, project leader, said: “The natural systems that under-pin the delivery of nature’s services that society enjoys, such as clean water, food and protection from flooding, are being increasingly challenged by climate change and the need to feed a rapidly growing planet.
“Our landscapes need to be managed correctly to ensure that society continues to benefit from nature’s services in the future. “If we are to continue to benefit from these services, we need to understand the links between the diversity of microbes, plants and animals and the services that they provide.
“The mud flats and salt marshes of the Bay are internationally important wetland sites, but also important for the communities that live in the area. “The Bay supports industry, provides resources and offers many opportunities for recreation and tourism, and it is this relationship, between nature and people, that we are interested in.”
Morecambe Bay is the largest continuous intertidal area in Britain. On the east and north of the Bay, the sand flats are bordered by extensive areas of salt marsh, only ever covered by the very highest tides. The Bay is rich in breeding birds, but its real importance is as a wintering and passage area for waders and wildfowl.
“It is very important to understand the value of the varied habitats that make up the landscape of the UK,” said Professor Paterson.
“Some of the most sensitive to the pressures of climate change are coastal systems. Our group will focus on understanding how microbes, plants and animals that live in threatened habitats contribute to our natural environment, economy and society.”
The initiative is part of a six year National Environment Research Council (NERC)-funded programme involving 14 research institutions and led by the University of St Andrews The study follows the team’s trip to the Essex marshes, with further studies to be done in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.