The Mersey Gateway Project

Biodiversity seminar set to showcase Gateway nature reserve plans

November 23, 2009adminNews

A planned Mersey Gateway nature reserve in Halton will be one of the main talking points at a special biodiversity seminar being held in Widnes next month.

The event, which is being held at the Catalyst Museum on 2 December, will look at different aspects of wildlife change across the Halton and Warrington area over the last quarter of a century.

It will be chaired by Professor David Norman, a Halton resident and author of the recent breeding and wintering atlas Birds in Cheshire and Wirral, which shows how bird populations in the area have changed in the last 25 years. Other speakers include biodiversity experts from the University of Salford, Natural England and the Mersey Gateway Project.

Additional research on the atlas has been carried out for Halton and Warrington in conjunction with the School of Environment and Life Sciences at the University of Salford.

Dr. Philip James, Reader in the School Environment and Life Sciences at the University of Salford will present research showing that the improved quality of water and air in the area has helped to improve the range of birdlife and numbers of birds present in the area.

Waterbirds, like grebes, ducks, geese, kingfishers and grey wagtails, have increased in numbers, as have warblers and tits, and many woodland species. However, breeding waders and farmland birds have declined, mainly due to changing patterns of land use.

Other presentations by Dr. Anna Scott, David Gledhill and Nicola Wallbank highlight recent research on the movement of key species, the importance of ponds and the value of maturing New Town woodland.

Professor Norman said: “Halton’s wildlife has really flourished in recent years, with plenty of evidence to support this claim from research projects conducted in partnership with the University of Salford and others. We’ve had to stop people registering for next month’s event, because we have had so much interest. The seminar will look at different aspects of change and how the proposed new nature reserve can continue to help wildlife in the area.”

Cllr Tony McDermott, Leader of Halton Borough Council, said: “This is an important event and it is great to hear that the changes in the environment in and around Halton have really captured people’s interest and made a difference to local bird and wildlife populations. Our aim with the proposed Mersey Gateway nature reserve is to build on this good work and continue improving the environment for future generations.”

A new 28.5 hectare nature reserve would be created in the heart of Halton around the Mersey Gateway bridge if the project is given the go-ahead.

The reserve will be located in the Upper Mersey Estuary, spanning both sides of the proposed new bridge. This will include saltmarsh habitats in both Runcorn and Widnes, including Wigg Island. The main public viewing points will be from existing visitor facilities on Spike Island and Wigg Island.

The long-term aim is to create a new nature reserve that will protect the local environment over the next 30 years. This is likely to include the creation of a new charity – the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust – to manage the proposed nature reserve.

Halton Borough Council Mersey Link

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