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The Wye Valley AONB Partnership provides ecological survey trainee positions to develop specific skills in ecological and wildlife survey work, use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and habitat management, through the LEMUR+ Project. The placements have expanded the current biodiversity and landscape data through surveying Phase 1 Habitats. The trainees also investigated and tested new survey technologies. The trainees also helped conduct additional ecological surveys including water vole and mink populations on the Wye and its tributaries. LEMUR+ (Learning Environments Marine, Urban and Rural Plus) Project, led by Ambios Ltd and Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) and funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, enabled the Wye Valley AONB Unit to host 2 LEMUR+ trainees, who received on the job practical experience in technical skills such as wildlife habitat surveying, habitat management, species identification and project management.
This is the fifth year the Wye Valley AONB Unit has hosted LEMUR trainees. The +Plus bit incorporates the trainee’s investigation into the use of new technologies in projects, including using QGIS and hand held devises in Phase 1 Habitat mapping and species identification. The 2 LEMUR+ trainees, one on a 9 month placement and the other on a 3 month placement, mainly concentrated on renewing the Phase 1 Habitat Survey of the Woolhope Dome, last completed in 1999-2000. They worked with the LEMUR+ trainees at Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) and periodically joined up for wider training with their LEMUR+ colleagues in South Devon (doing the ‘Marine’ part of LEMUR). The 2 LEMUR+ trainees completed 54km2 of Phase 1 Habitat survey in the AONB (17% of the AONB).
In 2015/16 the Phase 1 surveys started in Herefordshire at the northern end of the Wye Valley AONB. In previous years Phase 1 surveys had been completed in the Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire parts of the AONB. The surveying in Herefordshire provided fresh data to compare with the 1999-2000 ‘Millennium Map’ which can be used to discover land use changes in the area. This will assist Wye Valley AONB Partnership to conserve and enhance the landscape and with Herefordshire Wildlife Trust will also be used to create a living landscape project for the Woolhope Dome, identify potential Local Wildlife Sites and ground truth the recent Ancient Woodland Inventory review. The optimum survey period for grasslands occurs between June and July, when plants are flowering. Therefore, it was important to prioritise areas of possible high conservation value to survey during this peak period. The trainees did this by consulting the Millennium Map survey results, looking at field sizes and consulting aerial photographs. This gave them a list of high and lower priority km squares which they could then survey at the correct time of the season according to their value. There are exceptions to peak flower times such as Wild Daffodils, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, which flower in March/April. Their locations were captured by carrying out a survey from the roadside before the survey season started.
Press release were produced to publicise the project and this also led to a radio interview. Letters were also sent to parish councils in the survey area to inform them of the surveyors presence during the summer.
When possible surveying was conducted from public footpaths and roads. Getting land owner’s permission to access land, unless significant areas cannot be seen, is time consuming. However by contacting landowners greater access can be gained which makes the data more robust as well as engaging and supporting landowners.
The Heritage Lottery Fund support of the LEMUR+ Project, enabling the Wye Valley AONB Unit to host the 2 LEMUR+ trainees, who could then train up in and carry out the Phase 1 Habitat surveying. The enthusiasm and commitment of the trainees The willingness of the landowners to allow the surveyors onto to their land to conduct the Phase 1 Habitat mapping.
Quote from participant
“A highlight of the placement has been increasing my understanding and appreciation of landowner issues through informal chats in the field or around the kitchen table eg. debate over badgers v bumble bees & hedgehogs.” Stephen Shutt, LEMUR+ 3 month trainee.
Key search words: Phase 1 Habitat surveys
Photo Credits: Wye Valley AONB