For the first time in the UK, a nature monitoring scheme analysing the DNA of insects has been used to evaluate the natural condition and environmental ‘health’ of a site. It is hoped that the project will provide the next generation of solutions to improve habitats for wildlife across CEMEX UK’s 400 operational sites.
The pilot that was run at CEMEX UK’s Rugeley quarry site, near Cannock in the West Midlands revealed two rare and two scarce species of fly. CEMEX UK is working with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) to restore lowland heathland on the site.
CEMEX UK and RSPB have collaborated with the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) and SAP (System Applications Products) to collect insects using a Malaise trap and apply DNA barcoding technologies with data analytics to map the species found at the site
The results have revealed the presence of two nationally rare flies, Eurthyneura albipennis and Platypalpus pulicarius, both species only recorded on three UK sites, plus two nationally scarce species Meromyza mosquensis and Rhaphium micans.
“Both this ground breaking technology and the results are of tremendous importance and it has been fascinating to find such rare species present at Rugeley. The DNA anaylsis of insects could offer the next generation of solutions to managing and conserving the biodiversity around the company’s 400 operational sites,” comments Andy Spencer, Director of Sustainability, CEMEX UK.
The pilot involved capturing insects on site using a Malaise trap – a mesh tent with an opening for insects to fly in to – and collecting their DNA sequences to be compared to the BIO’s database of over 5.5 million species barcode sequences to give an accurate species map for the collection site.
Sam Tarrant, RSPB Business Conservation Manager, said: “This new innovative project is another brilliant example of how conservation and business can effectively work together to help build a brighter future for nature. Using the insect DNA we are able to establish the natural condition of sites and then work with CEMEX on how best to move forward in turning them into first class homes for nature.”
“It’s amazing to see these former quarry sites returned to nature and to watch the flocks of birds, wild plants and insects slowly take over. To think a few years ago CEMEX was excavating minerals from some of these areas and now they are beautiful nature reserves alive with wildlife for everyone to enjoy.”