Flower power!

Richard Anderson, & PhD student Lucinda Scriven positioning insect traps on site.
Richard Anderson, & PhD student Lucinda Scriven positioning insect traps on site.

A MAJOR industrial plant is boosting its green credentials in a four-year project to help local wildlife.

Rio Tinto Alcan has teamed up with Newcastle University to take a fresh look at its assets and examine the ecology of its site.

The Lynemouth power station and smelter is a famous local landmark, but the company also has more than 2,000 hectares of land, including farms, plantations, woodland, grassland and scrub, in the area.

Now it has sponsored PhD student Lucinda Scriven to undertake a four-year field study of its ecology to help form a Biodiversity Action Plan for better management of the land.

Environmental Regulation Manager at the smelter Richard Anderson said: “Through our partnership with the university’s School of Biology we hope to obtain a more detailed understanding of the biodiversity value of our landholdings to enable us to maximise the benefits to wild plant and animal species.

“We know the site contains a diverse range of habitat that we want to quantify through scientific study.

“Environmental stewardship and sustainability are high on our corporate agenda and we believe we have an opportunity to help plant and wildlife species on our land to flourish, whilst operating a responsible manufacturing process, providing employment and contributing to the region’s economy — all key metrics for measuring sustainable development.

“The more we know about the site’s value to biodiversity and the impact we have on it, the better informed we are when it comes to decision making and developing an action plan which specifically supports and enhances local habitats.”

The research will primarily focus on creatures that help plant fertilisation, such as bees, butterflies and certain types of beetle, which are under threat.

Ms Scriven said: “At present there is international concern about declines in the number of pollinators, such as the honeybee.

“Whilst there are many causes for these declines, my study for Rio Tinto is focusing on ways to encourage and increase the number of pollinators in the locality.

“Insects are good indicators of habitat quality and change because many are special to specific habitats and flower species. Pollinators in particular require various resources from their environment for feeding, nesting and reproduction, which makes them susceptible to any habitat loss or change.”

Information from the study will be shared with other local organisations and across the company’s network.

Newcastle University Senior Lecturer at the School of Biology Dr Gordon Port has welcomed the project.

“In the face of continuing changes in biodiversity, ongoing scientific research will give us the evidence, knowledge and understanding we need to ensure all landscapes can be sensibly managed in years to come,” he said.

“This is particularly important in the face of challenges such as climate change and the need to provide alternative energies.

“This project will also strengthen our relationship with Rio Tinto Alcan and could lead to further collaboration in terms of helping to train our researchers for the future and by contributing to publications on this topic.”