This particular seminar was conducted by Dr Shaun Russell which went on a different tangent to the previous three by focusing on future research opportunities.
Dr Russell is the director of Treborth Botanical Gardens and a lecturer at the university, specialising in mosses and liverworts. I have had the pleasure of being lectured by Dr Russell in one of my second year modules and find him very interesting to listen to, especially about his own work, and you can always count on him to be enthusiastic in what he talks about.
Tierra del Fuego or “Land of Fire” is an archipelago located off the southernmost tip of South America, separated by the Strait of Magellan. Tierra del Fuego is divided between Chile and Argentina with the former controlling the western part as well as the islands to the south of the Beagle Channel. The region is unique as it consists of multiple ecosystems with a “juxtaposition of wildlife” as a result of the varying climate from tropical to sub-antarctic conditions. The eastern coast consists of an extensive steppe environment creating beech forests which then transition into moorland and ice caps found on more exposed western coast. This variation promotes a high biodiversity, with the area not only being home to charismatic species like penguins and albatross but can also be described as one of the world’s hotspots for mosses and liverworts (hence Dr Russell’s involvement).
Now you’ve got me interested…
In the Chilean town of Puerto William a £10 million research centre is under construction providing a centre for tourism, learning and research. The Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Science Centre provides research opportunities in the surrounding area by acting as a multinational research station. The Cabo de Hornos Biosphere Reserve (Link), already an area of long-term biosphere research, is being extended to include the subsea mountain range, Sars Seamount. Also, 3-4 marine areas are to become protected areas.
As well as research opportunities the centre the project also caters for the local people, without whom most conservation and research becomes unsustainable and unrealistic. Dr Russell highlighted that to conserve areas you have to make it relevant to people and enable them to realise how important it is as a resource.
By including local people through the provision of training courses, for example plant identification, providing tours of the area for tourists set for the Antarctic you give nature a value, whether that’s intrinsic or extrinsic probably depends on who you’re talking to but by giving something a value it is more likely to be cared for. By empowering local communities investments made by tourists or visiting researchers stay within the local community. There are plenty of projects and developments that have become unsustainable because they don’t take into account local communities.
Hopes for the future…
The research centre has three main goals to accomplish over the next 10 years:
- Create a baseline survey of the area to create an inventory of species diversity and abundance
- Provide a public GIS platform for educational purposes
- Set up a long-term monitoring sites and observational stations to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem function.
But a bit closer to home, Dr Russell provides a key link between the university and the research centre which is ultimately mutually beneficial.
Personally, I’ve never really considered scientific research as a future pathway but more in the terms of research for wildlife documentaries. Documentaries are a key platform for promoting conservation to the general public in a way everyone can understand. Scientists get a bad reputation for being unable to communicate their research but documentaries and TV segments are able to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the general public. Before this seminar I had never heard of, let alone thought about adding it to my wanderlust list, a biosphere reserve the size of Wales and it’s surrounding communities. I know mosses and liverworts aren’t exactly the most charismatic of organisms but the “mini forests of Chile” and it’s surrounding areas and communities as a documentary or programme segment would further put it on the map and has huge potential for the local economy.