Centenary webinar speakers’ abstracts

100th Anniversary Webinars: Environmental Change on the Isle of Wight: past, present and future

This page gives abstracts of the main speaker’s presentations.

  • Climatic Change: Past, Present and Future – Monday 29th March 2021
  • Species Invasions: history and horizon scanning – Wednesday 31st March 2021
  • Habitats & Species 1 – Monday 5th April 2021
  • Habitats & Species 2 – Wednesday 7th April 2021

The webinars are free of charge, but you will need to book your tickets via Eventbrite here

Monday 29th March 2021: Session 1 Climate change: past, present and future trends

Chair Paul Bingham, Vice-president IWNHAS

The responses of marine ecosystems to global environmental change and other impacts – a century-long view of the English Channel

Stephen Hawkins1,2, Nova Mieszkowska1,3, Sally Keith 4,5, Ally Evans6, Louise Firth7, Alice Hall 4 and Roger Herbert 1,4.

1 University of Southampton 2 Marine Biological Association of the UK, Plymouth 3 University of Liverpool 4 University of Bournemouth 5 University of Copenhagen 6 University of Aberystwyth
7 University of Plymouth

In our rapidly changing oceans, global environmental change (warming, stormier and rising seas, ocean acidification, non-native invasive species) interacts with regional (e.g., fishing, eutrophication) and local impacts (e.g., pollution, habitat loss due to coastal development) to alter marine biodiversity and ecosystems.

Long-term research is essential to distinguish the ‘signal’ of climate change from the ‘noise’ of natural fluctuations and to disentangle global change from the effects of regional and local scale impacts. Using examples from work in the English Channel – much of it led from, or inspired by, the Plymouth Laboratory of the Marine Biological Association of the UK – a case is made for a long-term view of global change in the oceans. 100 years of observations of fish stocks on in the English Channel help separate the influence of climate and over-exploitation. Rocky shore species are indicators of changes offshore.

Between the 1950s and 1980s, many rocky shore species reached edge of their ranges in the area from Lyme Regis to Isle of Wight. Since the early 2000s, advances in the range edges of many warm water species have been recorded either side of the biogeographic boundary zone spanning the Isle of Wight, probably driven by greater reproductive output, perhaps aided by proliferation of coastal defences adding new habitat.

Examples are given of eco-engineering to enhance biodiversity of sea defences built in response to rising and stormier seas. Societal adaptation to climate change should seek to manage interactions of global change with regional and local scale impacts.


From Greenhouse to Icehouse, what the Island’s geological record tells us about the Cretaceous, and Post-Cretaceous world.

Martin Munt, Dinosaur Isle Museum, Culver Parade, Sandown, Isle of Wight. PO36 8QA

The cliffs of the Isle of Wight display rocks dating from the early to late Cretaceous, and Palaeocene to Oligocene. They record a Greenhouse, giving way to Icehouse world. The Cretaceous was a time of global warming and accompanying sea level rise, drowning coastal wetlands of the Wealden, with warm shallow seas, and then giving way to the deep seas of the Late Cretaceous
Chalk. Despite evidence from sea level curves, the Late Cretaceous is typically perceived as a greenhouse world lacking polar ice caps.

The Paleogene – Neogene is widely regarded as recording a step-like drop in global temperatures leading towards expansion of polar ice caps, and the Ice Ages of the last million years. The patterns recorded in oceanic cores can be tied to the onshore sequences, such as the cliffs of the north coast of the Isle of Wight. These provide one of the most continuous onshore sequences
of Paleogene sediments in northern Europe. Generally fossil rich, they record Palaeocene, Eocene and Early Oligocene deposition.

The picture is complicated by local tectonics, but the overall pattern of faunal and floral change through time, linked to the shift from warm subtropical to warm temperate climate can be seen. This includes the Grande Coupure (the big break) in mammals, and flora which occurred near the Eocene-Oligocene boundary. The Neogene is represented by patchy Quaternary deposits of gravel, clays, and raised beaches, tiny windows into our more recent past.


Archaeology and Coastal Change

Garry Momber, Maritime Archaeology Trust

A new initiative in the Southern North Sea and the English Channel titled Sustainable and Resilient Coastal Cities (SARCC) is, for the first time, assessing historical, archaeological and paleoenvironmental material to understand long term patterns of coastal and climate change. The results will be used by coastal managers to help identify geomorphological changes
that have been brought about by nature-based processes. The data gathered will help inform the design of urban coastal defences with a focus on nature-based solutions.

This paper will look at recently exposed submerged and coastal archaeological sites that are being used as sources of information. This will include Mesolithic discoveries at the submerged site of Bouldnor Cliff, along with Neolithic, Bronze Age and Roman structures that have recently been exposed following coastal erosion in the North West Solent.

This project is demonstrating the value of the cultural heritage as a resource that can aid our understanding of climate change on the fringes of the ocean. Accordingly, the methodology is being put forward with proposals for the use of the underwater cultural heritage, to be implemented within the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

Wednesday 31st March: Session 2: Species invasions: history and horizon scanning

Chair: Carol Flux, Natural Enterprise

Biological invasions: learning from the past and looking to the future

Helen E. Roy, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB

The recently released Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment’s message is stark: biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems – is declining faster than at any time in human history. Invasive non-native species, introduced by humans into regions beyond their natural distribution, were identified as one of the five top direct causes of biodiversity loss.

Biological invasions can threaten biodiversity and ecosystems, particularly through their interactions with other drivers of change such as climate warming. Species inventories are recognised as critical for the management of biological invasions, informing horizon scanning and surveillance, and underpinning prevention, control and elimination of invasive non-native species.
There have been major developments in the availability of high-quality data on invasive non-native species. Ensuring knowledge on invasive non-native species shared between countries, is essential to advance understanding and enable successful implementation of strategies to manage invasive non-native species.

The talk provides an overview of the ways in which this information can be used to inform science, policy and ultimately, conservation. It includes insights into invasion ecology, from broad patterns and processes to approaches in surveillance and monitoring, particularly involving citizens and highlighting the importance of collaborations including the forthcoming IPBES
global thematic assessment on invasive non-native species. Networks established through these collaborative initiatives have benefits for people, science and nature.


The Canada Goose Branta canadensis: a welcome addition to biodiversity on the Isle of Wight?

Keith Marston, Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) recorder for the Medina Estuary c/o IWNHAS, Unit 16, Prospect Business Centre,
Cowes, Isle of Wight PO33 7AD

A number of bird species, categorised as ‘invasive’, are responding to climate change, colonising the UK and expanding their range. There has also been a naturalised establishment of invasive, non-native birds that have been introduced in the UK.

The Canada Goose is one such invasive species, introduced to England in the seventeenth century. The abundance of the goose has increased rapidly in the country during the last three decades of the 20th century. The rate of growth has slowed during the 21st century, but expansion of its range continues northwards and westwards in the UK.

Since the first record of Canada Goose over the Isle of Wight in 1959, flock sizes have increased year on year with a new Island record in 2019. The first pair nested on the Island in 1970 and in subsequent years records suggest impressive fecundity and juvenile survival.

This species of goose is one of the invasive non-native animals in the UK with demonstrated negative environmental impact. Is the species a welcome addition to biodiversity on the Isle of Wight?


Marine animal invasions : is management possible?

Roger Herbert, Department of Life & Environmental Sciences, Bournemouth University, Christchurch House, Fern barrow,
Poole, BH12 5BB

Marine organisms have been transported across the globe as larvae or spores in ships’ ballast water and have established new populations, perhaps thousands of miles from their native range. Others have hitched a ride on ship and yacht hulls or with imported stock for aquaculture. Some have caused significant ecological and economic damage and are often referred to as ‘invasive non-native species’, notably the Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans in the Caribbean, the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi in the Black Sea and our own European shore crab Carcinus maenas in North America.

The south coast of England, and the Solent in particular, is a ‘hot-spot’ for marine non-native fauna. In an open system, is it possible to ‘manage’ marine non-native fauna? The conversation is complicated as some species provide beneficial ecosystem services.

There have been important advances in improving marine biosecurity but, in an era of significant environmental change and globalisation, we should anticipate frequent new arrivals. In coastal areas such as the Isle of Wight, how can we remain vigilant, respond and minimise negative impacts of non-native fauna on biodiversity?

Monday 5th April Session 3 Habitats and species 1

Chair Matthew Chatfield President IWNHAS

Marine algal invasions: are all aliens equal?

Juliet Brodie, Natural History Museum, Department of Life Science, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK

The presence of non-native seaweeds is a global phenomenon and reporting of these species can engender such headlines as ‘killer algae on the loose’ and ‘attack of the killer algae.’ A case in point was the discovery in 1973 of the alien brown seaweed Sargassum muticum (Wire weed) at Bembridge Ledges on the Isle of Wight when a ‘Wanted’ poster was released followed by ‘This seaweed is an undesirable alien on British shores.’ In another example, the green seaweed Caulerpa taxifolia was dubbed the ‘Killer Algae’ and ranked as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.

However, the impact of these species is unpredictable, and the effects may not be immediately apparent. Whilst the rate of introductions and spread of invasive algae is increasing, a challenge is recognising non-native species when they arrive.

It is also important to distinguish between species that are non-native, those that are non-native invasive, others that are expanding their range, for example due to climate change, and those that may have been present in the indigenous flora for a long time but not recognised as alien.

There will be an overview of non-native species, how they are spread, why some species become invasive whereas others do not, and an assessment of their impact on different seaweed floras. There will be examples from different parts of the world, but with the emphasis on Britain and in particular the Isle of Wight, an excellent location for the exploration of alien seaweeds.


Greening coastal infrastructure

Ian Boyd, Artecology, Culver Parade, Sandown, Isle of Wight, PO36 8QA

The increasing pressure of coastal urbanisation on inshore ecosystems is driving new thinking and innovation in the design and management of sea defences, ports and marinas. Retrofit solutions for existing infrastructure and techniques and materials for new construction are both helping to increase habitats and boost biodiversity in the built environment of our coastal communities.

The Solent region is becoming one of the world’s leading centres of research in the field of marine eco-engineering and the Isle of Wight is at the centre of this work. Some of the latest developments in biologically receptive engineering being created here, and there are new possibilities for the future of designed urban ecology.


Generational change of Black-tailed Godwit wintering areas on the Isle of Wight

Jim Baldwin, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU

Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) data show that there are three times as many Black-tailed Godwits wintering in Great Britain compared to 25 years ago, one of the few increases in wintering wader populations. This increase is principally due to the breeding success of the Icelandic population of the Black-tailed Godwit. Population expansion has been facilitated by warmer
spring conditions in the north and north-eastern areas of Iceland as a result of climate change.

Long-term studies of the Black-tailed Godwit has identified that the new generation of birds are also choosing new wintering areas and new migration strategies. This is particularly evident in north-west England and the winter migration population in Portugal.

To a lesser degree this is also occurring on the Isle of Wight where the Newtown National Nature Reserve wintering population has decreased by 43% during the last 25 years, while the population at Yarmouth has increased by a staggering 590% over the same period.


Genetic structure and origin of the last red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris L.) populations in the South of England

Emilie Hardouin, Department of Life & Environmental Sciences, Bournemouth University, Christchurch House, Fern Barrow, Poole, BH12 5BB and Helen Butler, Wight Squirrel Project

The Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is an emblematic species for conservation and represents a good example of the negative effect of alien introduction. Indeed, the red squirrel populations in the UK have experienced a dramatic decline over the last 60 years due to habitat loss and the spread of the “red squirrel parapox” virus following the introduction of the grey squirrel (S. carolinensis).

Currently, red squirrel populations in the UK are highly fragmented and need to be closely monitored in order to assess their viability and the success of conservation efforts. The situation is even more dramatic in the south of England, where red squirrels survive on three islands (Brownsea, Furzey and the Isle of Wight) in the absence of grey squirrels. The Isle of Wight currently supports the largest population of red squirrels. The genetic diversity and genetic structure of the squirrel population from the Isle of Wight has been investigated in order to infer its conservation status.

Wednesday 7th April: Session 4 Habitats and species 2

Chair: Anne Marston, IWNHAS

The changing fortunes of the Island’s heaths

Clive Chatters, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Heathlands were an important element of the Island’s landscape and rural economy from the post-medieval period and into the early modern age. Since c. 1600, there has been a loss of some 98% of the Island’s heaths. Historically, the complex geology and active coastal geomorphology of the Island allowed the development of a range of locally distinctive heathland habitats, supporting many species which are now regarded as nationally rare and scarce.

A conjectural map of the extent of heathland on the Island in c. 1600 has been drawn up from an eclectic range of documentary sources. More recent published records, notably those collated by William Bromfield in 1856 and Frank Morey in 1909, give an insight into the natural history of those heathlands in the mid nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Heathland habitats and species are naturally dynamic and have recently shown their capacity to colonise land as favourable niches become available. In the foreseeable future there will be opportunities to rejuvenate heathlands in the Island’s countryside. It would be valuable to debate how those opportunities may be realised, together with the degree to which the wildlife of new landscapes should be determined by design.


Isle of Wight Biosphere: focus on woodlands

Richard Grogan Lead Officer, Isle of Wight AONB, Branstone Farm, Sandown PO36 0LT

The Isle of Wight UNESCO Biosphere Reserve includes woodland habitats which have been influenced by the character of the Island and shaped over millennia by human activity and natural change. The proposition is that, due to a combination of island biogeography, woodland management and positive conservation efforts, the Isle of Wight’s woodlands are unique in the British
Isles in supporting a wide range of rare and endangered populations of mammals once found commonly across southern Britain.

Our woodlands are a living example of the value of the Isle of Wight as an area of exceptional biodiversity; they allow us to confirm our international status as a Biosphere reserve and give a good focus for remaining so.


The Island’s Habitats and Species in Context – Highs, Lows and the Future

Jonathan Cox, Jonathan Cox Associates, Fig House, Poles Lane, Lymington

The geology map of the Island has been likened to a piece of streaky bacon: this complex geology is a microcosm of that spanning the south east of England, from the Hampshire Basin to the Weald. The Island’s diverse geology is reflected in a varied and biologically rich mix of wildlife habitats. For some of these, such as chalk grassland and woodland, the Island has nationally and internationally important examples. Other habitats, such as mires and chalk rivers that are rare or even absent on the Island, are well represented on the mainland.

The Isle of Wight’s ecology is also remarkable for its fauna and flora. African safaris may boast of their ‘Big Five’ mammals, but on the Island, we have a unique and equally impressive ‘Big Four’ that inhabit our woodlands. By contrast, the Island’s bird fauna is comparatively impoverished when compared to the mainland.

For much of Island’s wildlife, the past century has been one of loss and decline. This can be illustrated by the fortunes of Alverstone Marshes: the drainage and destruction of the mid-20th century and the nadir of the Hill Heath Ditch court case. However, the recent purchase of much of this wetland area by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust for a habitat restoration project gives us hope for the future.

Perhaps we are now at the dawn of a new age of ecological restoration. We are learning that wildlife can be remarkably tenacious and given a chance, it will respond. We must work with this resilience to allow nature to find a new place in the island’s landscape and coast.