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Biodiversity theme day – Botany, Bugs and Biodiversity

Public event
9 January 2016, 11am to 3pm
at Dundee Science Centre, Greenmarket, Dundee DD1 4QB
for families and any interested parties
Living Field, Invergowrie (c) James Hutton Institute

The croplands around Scotland’s coasts are an ancient form of managed land. Hunting communities occupied the area after the last ice retreated. Farmers arrived 5000-6000 years ago, bringing their crop seed with them. For thousands of years, local and imported plants provided a great diversity of useful products – foods, medicinals, fibres, dyes, building materials.  Yet over time, the soil’s fertility became exhausted. Famine and hardship were never far away. The population in towns and cities was increasing. Something had to be done.

The agricultural improvements of the 1700s were a first major step to regaining soil fertility, but an end to famine came with the technologies of the 1900s. Grain output in Scotland more than trebled from the 1940s to the 1990s.  But there were consequences due to over-application of nitrogen fertiliser, pest control chemicals that affected much more than pests and excessive tilling of the soil that reduced its organic matter and cohesive structure.

One of the main consequences was a decline in biodiversity - the number and type of living things – the plants, bugs and birds that made the croplands their home and contributed to its internal upkeep. Remove this biodiversity and the croplands will not work sustainably.

Against this background, Dr Geoff Squire from the James Hutton Institute's Ecological Sciences group will describe intensification in the 1900s, causes of the decline in biodiversity and steps needed to halt and reverse it, by using exhibits from the Institute's Living Field located at Invergowrie. The exhibits will also demonstrate some of the wonderful wild and cultivated plants of the region and their uses as herbs, medicinals and dyes.

Visit the event page at the Dundee Science Centre website for more information.


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.