Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Avalon Marshes Sites Chosen For Wetland Project

 12th Oct 2017

WetlandLIFE project selects our Westhay Moor site and Natural England's Shapwick Heath Reserve for participation in major wetland project.

28th September 2017 –  WetlandLIFE, a nationwide, three year university-led project, funded by a number of UK research councils, has announced that it will be working in the Somerset Levels to carry out a range of ecological and cultural research which aims to support the development of better wetland assessment tools for use by wetland site managers across the country – tools which will ensure that our wetlands are managed well and remain healthy in the face of challenges such as climate change, and are also optimised for the wider benefit of the communities that live alongside them in terms of health and wellbeing.
Westhay Moor and Shapwick Heath have been chosen as study sites as they provide examples of land use change in a rural setting, having been reverted into wetlands from agriculture and peat extraction, as well as having a rich history and vibrant recreational use.
The WetlandLIFE team will be working closely with site managers from Somerset Wildlife Trust and Natural England, and communities around Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor in a variety of ways; from investigating the human side of living alongside wetlands as well the challenges that arise from living near them, producing locally-inspired stories, documentaries, artworks and photography exhibitions; to more economic evaluation, social research and historical analysis to reveal the variety of values associated with wetlands, particularly their role in people’s health and wellbeing.  

Westhay Moor Wetlands Day

One particular focus will be on wetland mosquitoes, exploring how their beneficial ecological role sits alongside people’s perception and experiences of these insects.  
Dr Tim Acott, from the University of Greenwich, is WetlandLIFE's principal investigator.
He says: "This project gives us a fantastic opportunity to develop practical guidelines for wetland management, reflecting a greater understanding of mosquito ecology alongside the importance of wetlands to local communities. Our research will help us support the human health and wellbeing benefits that wetlands can provide."
The project brings together social scientists, ecologists, historians, artists and economists, in a truly multi-disciplinary team. Six research institutes are involved, including Public Health England, Forest Research and the universities of Brighton, Bristol and Cranfield in addition to Greenwich. Three artists have also just been recruited to work on the project.
Dr Adriana Ford, Environmental Social Sciences Research Fellow at the University of Greenwich, who will be conducting filmed interviews for a ‘community voice’ documentary, says,
“We are delighted to be working in the Somerset Levels, in particular Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor. These wetlands are not only an important part of the landscape, but are also part of people’s lives and sense of place. We’re looking forward to working with local people to discover more about their relationships with these wetlands and that of the surrounding landscape.”
For interviews and further information please contact Kirby Everett on 01823 652413 or email: or Lisa Whaley on 01823 652400 or
You can follow us on Twitter at SomersetWT or Facebook on @Somersetwildlifetrust


Editors Notes


Natural England

We're the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England’s nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide.

Within England, we’re responsible for:

promoting nature conservation and protecting biodiversity

  • conserving and enhancing the landscape
  • securing the provision and improvement of facilities for the study, understanding and enjoyment of the natural environment, eg new tower hide at Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve
  • promoting access to the countryside and open spaces and encouraging open-air recreation
  • contributing in other ways to social and economic well-being through management of the natural environment, eg changes to wildlife licensing to improve flexibility for developers

About WetlandLIFE  -

WetlandLIFE is a three-year project (2016–19), funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of the Valuing Nature Programme.

WetlandLIFE is an interdisciplinary project utilising a range of natural and social science research techniques, as well as approaches from the humanities and the arts, to understand some of these values of wetlands from both an historical and contemporary perspective. From 2016 - 2019 the project will study cultural, historic and economic aspects of English wetlands, alongside an ecological focus on mosquito management now and in the past. The overarching aim is to improve wetland management by delivering ecological guidance for managing insect populations, particularly mosquitoes, for healthy wetland environments, and to encourage the recreational use of wetlands to support the health and well-being of local human populations.


About Somerset Wildlife Trust –

Somerset’s wildlife is part of what makes living, working and visiting the county so special. Somerset Wildlife Trust has been protecting vulnerable wildlife and preserving Somerset’s wild places for over 50 years and, with over 18,000 members, is the largest conservation charity in the county.  Alongside our members and volunteers we work year round to protect wildlife, transform landscapes and put nature back into people’s lives. 
Our reserves holding of over 1700 hectares incorporates a diverse range of habitats from wetlands to woodlands, grasslands and meadows, and provide secure environments for a diverse range of wildlife such as Dormice, Otters, Hedgehogs, Barn Owls and many other species - as well as providing safe havens for some of Somerset’s most iconic species such as Bittern and Large Blue butterfly.
The majority of our work is made possible through the support of our members and people who live and work in the county who choose to make donations, fundraise for us or leave generous legacies. By working together with our members and supporters we really can make a difference.