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Darwin anniversary heralds new conservation research era for Northern Ireland

On the bicentenary of the birth of eminent biologist today (Thursday) Charles Darwin a new 2m research contract has been launched to conserve and protect Northern Ireland's natural heritage.

Queen's University Belfast and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) have teamed up to form the Natural Heritage Research Partnership (NHRP) which was awarded to the university following EU-wide tendering.

The project is being led by Quercus, Queen's Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science.

Darwin's thinking was crucial for our understanding of how species and their environment are related. The new partnership aims to further that understanding and provide scientific evidence on which to base governmental decisions about the conservation and protection of marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems including habitats and species of conservation concern.

Dr Neil Reid, Quercus Centre Manager, said: "Over the next 10 years our research will tackle important issues including the management of designated sites such as Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs), the monitoring of rare species and the implications of climate change here on our own doorstep.

"Quercus has been enormously successful in attracting external funding to expand our work in the environmental sector. The Natural Heritage Research Partnership is our most valued collaboration - such a direct link between government and academia is rare."

The research programme will include work on established conservation flagship species such as the Irish hare and red squirrel but will also focus on important habitats including marine protected areas, threatened coastal sand dunes and the Lough Neagh ecosystem.

Professor Ian Montgomery, Head of the School of Biological Sciences, added: "The work will break fresh ground within the relatively new discipline of environmental economics, which values ecosystem services in financial terms, for example, the value of natural habitats such as woodland or bog in carbon storage or the value of bees for crop pollination."


Contact: Andrea Clements
Queen's University Belfast

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