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Durham University News

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Biodiversity is blooming at Durham University

(30 October 2012)

Barn Owl (Credit S G Willis)

A year of monitoring the biodiversity of the Durham University Campus has revealed the rich diversity of wildlife that shares the University grounds with staff and students.

Conservation initiatives over recent years are also helping to boost the number of species using the University.

This summer saw the first successful breeding on the University grounds by Barn Owls, a pair of which fledged three young this year. At least eight Red-listed bird species – those UK species of highest conservation priority and which have suffered severe population declines nationally – occur on the grounds, along with around 14 Amber-listed species, which are also of national conservation concern.

In addition, the University has at least 200 species of flowering plants, including four species of wild orchid and woodlands full of bluebells and other ancient woodland indicators, with many more plant species waiting to be discovered. The bird list for the University contains 100 species, including five birds of prey and three owl species.

The campus is also a haven for mammals, with Roe Deer, Badgers and Foxes regularly sighted in the woodlands, though unfortunately the Red Squirrels that used to occur in the woods were replaced by Grey Squirrels over a decade ago. The University also supports six of the eight species of bat recorded in County Durham.

The University Biodiversity Group within Greenspace, which coordinates environmental initiatives and activities across the University, has spent the last two years collating and collecting biodiversity records.

Dr Stephen Willis, from the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University, said: ‘Although we now have a good idea of the breeding birds across the campus, we have still probably recorded less than 50% of the flowering plants that occur, and the 100 species of butterflies and moths we have identified to date is probably only about 20% of what might occur in the area”

Steve Ansdell, the University Horticultural manager, said: “We are fortunate to have a university that is surrounded by so much wildlife. It makes it a great place to work and study, though safeguarded biodiversity in a bustling university can be a challenge at times.”

Dr Willis added: “Durham University probably protects more species than many nature reserves in the UK, and must be one of the most biodiverse universities in the country.”

The Biodiversity Group at Durham University over the last two years has comprised Steve Ansdell, Allan Watson, Dr Phil Gates and Dr Stephen Willis.

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