A NORTHUMBERLAND power station has teamed up with Newcastle University to examine the ecology of its land and protect the surrounding wildlife.
The new partnership will see conservation enthusiast and PhD student Lucinda Scriven undertake a four-year field study covering more than 2,000 hectares around Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminium smelter and power station in Lynemouth, near Ashington.
Richard Anderson, environmental regulation manager at Lynemouth smelter, 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.
“Environmental stewardship and sustainability are high on our agenda and we believe we have an opportunity to help plant and wildlife species to flourish, whilst operating a responsible manufacturing process, providing employment and contributing to the region’s economy.
“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 study will primarily research species of pollinators which are creatures that assist in plant fertilisation. Most pollinators are insects which feed on nectar like honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies.
Lucinda, from Ryton, Gateshead, said: “At present, there is international concern about declines in the numbers of pollinators.
“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.”
The company will sponsor Lucinda throughout the four-year study. When the project is complete the results will be used to implement management changes to enhance biodiversity in the busy industrial area.
Mr Anderson added: “Lucinda’s report and results will be used to inform and develop the Biodiversity Action Plan for our Lynemouth operations in order to meet the Rio Tinto objective for all our sites to achieve a positive impact on biodiversity. We intend to share the information locally and globally through our annual sustainability reports.
Dr Gordon Port, senior lecturer in the School of Biology at Newcastle, said: “Through partnership working, the university is able to make a valid contribution to the local area and one of our PhD students benefits by gaining valuable and practical experience on an industrial project.”