Earthwatch, the international environmental charity, and principal scientist Dr. Chris Joyce are celebrating their success in securing a £178k Darwin Initiative grant. As a result, Earthwatch and Dr Joyce will be expanding their ongoing research project in the coastal wetlands of Estonia, one of the new EU Accession States.
This grant will be used to enhance and extend the existing Earthwatch-supported research project Baltic Island Wetlands and Wildlife that is designed to collect data from internationally important wetland areas in order to maintain and enhance the biodiversity.
Working in partnership with three Estonian environmental organisations, a monitoring programme will now be introduced on the island of Vormsi, and at two mainland wetland sites on the coast of Estonia. The programme will follow the environmental effects of both habitat management and climate change by using key bird, mammal and plant species, as indicators for detecting and comparing change in managed and neglected grassland.
This research will be used to influence agricultural environmental policy in Estonia towards the sustainable management of these internationally important coastal wetland areas.
Dr. Chris Joyce commented, 'We applied for the Darwin grant essentially to extend and expand the existing Earthwatch project. The funds will enable equipment to be purchased and for Estonians to be employed so that more wetland sites of biodiversity importance can be monitored, and the results shared with interested parties throughout the Baltic States. This will raise the profile of coastal wetlands as a habitat of international conservation value and will inform scientists and practitioners about the best methods to manage the wetland resource.'
He continued, 'For me, the Darwin grant represents a huge boost for the study as it will substantially increase its impact on the ground and its influence amongst stakeholders in Estonia. It also means I can work in even closer partnership with Earthwatch and the Estonians all year round which is fantastic.'
Roger Mitchell, Head of Research and Education at Earthwatch, said, 'We are delighted to have received this grant and the timing is perfect because, as a new EU Accession State, Estonia will be receiving funds for agricultural support. We want to show how this financial support can be used to manage coastal wetlands in an environmentally sensitive way.'
He added, 'We hope to encourage effective management of this country's wet grassland resource, which was largely neglected for up to 50 years during the Soviet era. Crucially, EU accession not only brings unique opportunities to develop agri-environmental policy for biodiversity conservation, but also the threat of agricultural intensification and the consequent loss of biodiversity. This grant means we will be able to establish a network of sites and stakeholders to monitor the effects of management and environmental change at three key Estonian wetlands.'
Earthwatch hopes to be able to encourage sustainable use of the land and contribute to the livelihoods of new owners inexperienced in wetland management. This will be done by disseminating and creating a stakeholder network to encourage good hay harvesting and livestock grazing practice, to guide emerging eco-tourism opportunities, and to inform agri-environmental and other environmental policies during EU integration.
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