TAKING THE BITE OUT OF WETLANDS: MANAGING MOSQUITOES AND THE SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL VALUE OF WETLANDS FOR WELLBEING

Lead Research Organisation: University of Greenwich
Department Name: History, Politics & Social Sci., FACH

Abstract

Interest in the health and wellbeing impacts of wetlands has increased in the UK, in the context of both short and long term responses to extreme weather events and climate change. This is reflected in the UK Wetland Vision (Hume, 2008) that identifies a need to 'make wetlands more relevant to people's lives by better understanding and harnessing the benefits provided by naturally-functioning rivers and wetlands' (p.7). Expansion of wetlands can bring many benefits but it can also increase potential for mosquito-borne disease. There is a lack of knowledge about the consequences of wetland expansion for disease risk. This knowledge gap opens up space for speculation in the press and media about the perceived problems of 'killer' mosquitoes spreading across England, which can in turn fuel community unease and opposition to wetland creation and expansion. A key concern of the project is, therefore, to develop ecological interventions and guidance for diverse end-users to minimise mosquito-related problems, framed within and facilitated by a broader understanding of wetland value as impacted by mosquitoes. The potential contribution of wetland development to social and economic wellbeing envisaged in the UK Wetland Vision could be severely constrained by a failure to adequately address the risks imposed by mosquitoes and biting insects.

The overall aim of this project will be to show how positive socio-cultural and ecological values of wetlands can be maximised for wellbeing and negative attitudes reduced. Management interventions for use by Public Health England and general guidelines will be developed to limit the damaging effects of mosquito populations and enhance appreciation of the ecological value of mosquitoes in wetland ecosystems. The project will result in an increase in our understanding of wetland environments and demonstrate how ecological interventions embedded in a broader understanding of wetland valuation can deliver wellbeing benefits to a broad range of stakeholders.

There are four main objectives:

1) Development of a new conceptual place-based ecosystem services and wellbeing framework for understanding the impact of interventions and wetland values.

2) Exploration of the value of wetlands and mosquitoes in twelve case study locations.

3) Production of guidelines for valuing wetlands and managing mosquito populations to enhance the value of British wetlands for wellbeing.

4) Production of a place-based narrative on the socio-cultural, economic and ecological value of wetlands in British Society in the early years of the 21st Century.

There are divergent views of wetlands among different stakeholders. This project is therefore designed to provide technical interventions and general guidelines in a range of wetland management contexts to maximise wellbeing benefits. A range of stakeholders are potential beneficiaries of this research including land managers, non-governmental organisations, conservation groups, local residents, visitors and tourists among others. This research will help implementation of the Wetland Vision by understanding the complex ways in which wetlands are valued and produce measures to maximise wellbeing benefits and minimise disvalue. Benefits include: a) production of a range of technical interventions for mosquito control by end users; b) raising the social and cultural value of wetlands to facilitate wetland expansion in response to extreme weather and climate change; c) enhanced opportunities for visitors to wetlands and local residence to experience health and wellbeing benefits; d) increased opportunities for tourism and leisure by reducing anxiety associated with wetlands.

HUME, C. 2008. Wetland Vision Technical Document: overview and reporting of project philosophy and technical approach. The Wetland Vision Partnership.

Planned Impact

Within the timeframe of the project the main beneficiaries will be the end-users of the wetland sites chosen for our participant case-studies. We already have a strong network of partners and consultants in the project including Public Health England (PHE), Forest Research Institute, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Natural England, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Environment Agency. These project partners will help to ensure the relevance and impact of the project at regional and national level, while additional stakeholders will be recruited during the project to deepen the impact of the work into local communities. Examples include land managers (for instance local RSPB reserves, Wildlife Trusts), representatives of local communities, local business, charities, schools, action groups and others.
The partnership has been selected to include many key internationally recognised researchers in the field of environmental valuation and ecological understanding of mosquitoes across the arts, humanities and science. The project has been structured around development of a conceptual framework (WP1) that embeds valuation for ecosystem services within a novel interdisciplinary approach that prioritises end users and disciplinary collaboration. This could potentially impact a national and international audience interested in ecosystem services and the valuation of nature. In the medium and longer term it is hoped that the key project output "a place based narrative on the socio-cultural, economic and ecological value of wetlands in British Society in the early years of the 21st Century" will contribute to a national debate on the future of wetlands in our society. By raising awareness of the social value of wetlands for framing ecological interventions to maximise wellbeing we are creating the circumstances to facilitate successful wetland expansion and management in response to climate change and extreme weather.
PHE has a wealth of knowledge and experience of measures to control mosquitoes in wetland habitats, and currently works with a broad group of stakeholders largely on a case-by-case basis, 'fire-fighting' preventable mosquito problems. The results of our project will benefit PHE and the groups of stakeholders they work with by disseminating information widely to targeted personnel who will be in a better position to prevent problems before they arise. PHE would also benefit from an established social network through which it could disseminate urgent and longer-term information to appropriate end users, thereby supporting the social mandate of this UK governmental organisation. Wetland managers and environmental and conservation organisations, e.g. RSPB, EA, will benefit economically by implementing more cost-effective measures to maintain mosquito populations at acceptable levels, and they will benefit socially by gaining knowledge about mosquito ecology and the ecosystem benefits a diversity of mosquito species contribute to the food chain. This social value will, in turn, contribute to the capacity of wetland managers to disseminate their knowledge to end users of wetlands, particularly at an educational level. Communities accessing wetlands for recreation, appreciation of nature and sporting activities will benefit from increased health and well-being, and a renewed confidence and pride of place once the anxieties associated with wetlands have been addressed. Communities living in the vicinity of wetlands will benefit from the alleviation of anxiety that changes in the environment could have a negative impact on their health and well-being. In the long-term, this positive impact will add to their sense of security by knowing that the risk of flooding and the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in their communities is lessened by the existence of the wetlands

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description A presentation to the Brighton and Hove branch of the Geographical Association 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Around 50 pupils from sixth form colleges from East and West Sussex and Kent came along to my talk along with their teachers. Also in the audience were other geography teachers and geographers in other professions. I talked widely on the subject of 'Renaturing cities: climate change adaptation to reduce flood risk.' I talked with students and teachers afterwards, inviting them to contact me if they had any specific questions. I have since been invited to write articles for two practitioner, peer-reviewed journals: Geography Teacher and Geography.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.geography.org.uk/write/MediaUploads/Get%20involved/GA_branch_brighton2018.pdf
 
Description Festival of Nature 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project member Dr Frances Hawkes received public engagement training from the British Ecological Society (BES), with whom she went on to develop a "science busk" - a game the public can play that conveys scientific principles or information in a fun way. Dr Hawkes conceived, designed and built "Mosquito Jenga" with support from BES. This game is based on the tumbling blocks game "Jenga" and demonstrates in a dynamic way how mosquitoes support other organisms in the food chain. Mosquitoes are represented by mosquito blocks at the base of the tower and support other organism blocks, represented by fish, garden bird and bird of prey blocks resting on the mosquito blocks - removing the mosquito blocks from the base of the "food chain" causes the tower of other organisms to collapse. The game can be played by any age group. Accompanying the game is a poster with interesting little-known facts about mosquitoes, for example their role in pollination and how male mosquitoes feed on nectar like butterflies. The game is intended to help answer the common question posed by the public to those working on pests such as mosquitoes. "What is the point of a mosquito?" by showing how organisms connect in a food chain, but also providing a departure point for a discussion about mosquito ecology and their role in disease transmission. The busk was taken to Festival of Nature 2017 and was available for visitors to play at the BES stand. The Festival ran from 9-11 June 2017. The 9th June was Schools Day, were hundreds of primary school children played Mosquito Jenga, linking to their National Curriculum topics on food chains. Over the weekend of 10-11th June, the event was open to the public and at least 521 members of the public played Mosquito Jenga and engaged with Dr Hawkes and other BES staff about mosquito ecology and biology in the UK and overseas. Common responses from members of the public included an endearing response to know that mosquitoes only eat blood to help provide nutrition for their developing eggs, and an appreciation that they are an important food source for many other animals, such as frogs, birds and bats. The were interesting discussions with the public about topics such as "Should we eradicate mosquitoes?" and "Why are some people more attractive to mosquitoes than others?".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bnhc.org.uk/festival-of-nature/
 
Description Mosquito jenga engagement activity at annual Valuing Nature Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A mosquito Jenga game, developed by WetlandLIFE team member Frances Hawkes, was used as an engagement activity at the annual Valuing Nature conference in 2017. See separate entry for more details about the game.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation at the National Wetlands Indaba, Port Edward, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, 16th to 19th October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Mary Gearey, Research Fellow from the School of Environment and Technology, presented University of Brighton research at the South African National Wetlands Indaba, held in the Eastern Cape town of Port Edward during 16th to 19th October 2017. The Indaba is a prestigious event, bringing together academics, environmental activists, NGOs and government officials from South Africa and beyond in a forum for mutual learning and policy development across sectors, with wetlands integrity at the forefront.
Showcasing SET's work at the conference, Dr Gearey presented the work that she and her colleagues have and are developing, exploring human wellbeing within a variety of UK wetlands. Particularly focusing upon community engagement to support the long term health of wetlands, Dr Gearey outlined work undertaken within the current WetlandLIFE project (www.wetlandlife.org) running until 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://nwi17.sawetlands.org/
 
Description Presentation to the Valuing Nature annual conference on Nested Ecosystem Services 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Acott presented the idea of 'Nested Ecosystem Services' at the annual Valuing Nature conference. This is a conceptual framework being developed as part of the WetlandLIFE project to embed ideas of relationality and social wellbeing into ecosystem services. The conference aimed to bring people together from diverse research areas and from business, policy and practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop to explore role of arts in landscape and environmental research 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a one day workshop to explore the role of arts and artists in landscape and environmental research today. It was held at National Gallery, 15th Feb 2018. It was an interdisciplinary meeting aiming to foster debate and dialogue about the role of arts and the artist in landscape and environmental research today by cutting across disciplinary perspectives and professional practices. Tim Acott and David Edwards from the WetlandLIFE team were on the organising committee and used their experiences from the WetlandLIFE project to contribute to the workshop development (WetlandLIFE was used as discussion case study). Two artists from the WetlandLIFE team also attended the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://valuing-nature.net/news/workshop-arts-and-artist-landscape-and-environmental-research-today-a...