Savanna van Mesdag
Research title: Anthropogenic biodiversity and geodiversity – can legacy industrial waste help offset falling global biodiversity?
Industrial waste can come in many forms and can impose noticeable changes on the local flora and fauna around the world. While one might first suppose that industrial waste, such as steel slag, would have a negative and deleterious impact on nature and biodiversity, studies have suggested that interesting, specialist and rare species and communities can exist on these sites. These sites are vulnerable to removal or remediation from people who are keen to ‘improve’ them for local communities, when they might already provide local communities with valuable wildlife. Not only this, industrial waste such as steel slag, being an anthropogenic, or man-made substrate, is unlike any natural substrate, offering potential geodiversity in a world that is also losing important substrates and rocks through processes such as land-use change, erosion and industry.
I will be specifically studying steel slag sites, to assess the geodiversity and biodiversity. The species I will be recording will be plants and certain species of invertebrate, to gain a good overview of site biodiversity. I will be taking slag samples next to/near the plants that will be recorded, to see if there is any correlation or link between the steel slag components and the plants present. I also plan to run plant growth experiments to assess how well plants grow on slag compared to ‘non-toxic’ substrate. I am keen to see whether or not legacy steel slag sites provide important and significant geodiversity and biodiversity and whether or not brownfield sites/open mosaic habitats such as these deserve better protection from development/other uses.
Prof Alistair Jump (University of Stirling, Biological and Environmental Sciences)