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Celebrating Manx Biodiversity on World Wetlands Day 25 February 2008

The Wildlife and Conservation Division of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry held a special conference on 2nd February to celebrate World Wetlands Day. 80 people attended the one-day conference at the Erin Arts Centre focusing on Manx Biodiversity and the sharing of information about the work done by different conservation organisations to record, monitor and conserve Manx wildlife. Conference speakers at the celebration of World Wetlands Day

The conference was opened by Dr Peter Bridgewater, the chairman of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Island resident whose last job was as Secretary General to the Ramsar secretariat. He highlighted the importance to people of healthy habitats and wetlands in particular, as they are one of the most threatened habitats and globally sometimes perceived as a health risk.

Dr Bridgewater said ‘This was a wonderful day which showed how much is being done by so many different groups, on many different wildlife species on the island. It also showed the importance of this work, and of the island itself, in ensuring long-term futures for the biodiversity of the British Isles. It was a very creative celebration of World Wetlands Day’

Speakers on the day ranged from representatives of wildlife charities and Government departments to students and project officers. Some of the areas covered included the monitoring of bats along the Islands roads, the work of the watercourses project officer, finding and saving rare plants, discovering the abundance of introduced amphibians in ponds and the review of the Manx Bird Atlas. Also covered was the important work by the Manx Wildlife Trust to establish a system of Wildlife Sites for places of local importance. Some of the first sites to be looked at are close to urban areas which are much appreciated by local people.

Dark Bush Cricket found on the Isle of ManThe roles of wildlife and fisheries divisions of DAFF, MNH and the Wildlife Park in conserving wildlife were explained. It was explained that a subtle temperature difference enables the Dark Bush Cricket, (protected under the Wildlife Act) to complete its two year life cycle on the warm broughs of Laxey bay and no-where else on the Island. The question was asked ‘Can we expect this species to benefit from global warming?’ The strategic importance of the Island as a place where climate change can be monitored and observed was described by Stephen Jeffcoate, of Butterfly Conservation. New butterfly and moth species have colonised the island in the last few years, including speckled wood and the comma.

Louise Samson, the Ayres warden, highlighted the importance of the Ayres for the very beautiful Scarlet and Gold Moth, which is very rare and thrives on thyme among the dunes. This rare species is being regularly monitored by DAFF.

Several speakers pointed out that we are losing species, such as the yellowhammer and three nerved sandwort and highlighted the importance of having an up-to-date and accessible biological database to make sure trends in species numbers are picked up. The conference closed with a call for government to get this database established. Scarlet and Gold Moth found at the Ayres

A member of the public attending the conference remarked that it was a wonderful day, ‘There is so much work going on around the Island that we didn't know about.’

Mr David Quirk, MHK Member with special responsibility for Wildlife Division said “It’s encouraging to see so much interest generated in the work of the Division and its aims to ensure the effective conservation of the Island’s most scarce and important species of wild plants, animals and important habitats.”

Mr Quirk went on to say “I would encourage anyone who is able to attend the planned conference in Ramsey in May covering marine issues to come along and enjoy the day.”

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