Friday, 26 April 2013

Building environmental research links in Beijing

The first visit of research scientists to discuss opportunities for collaboration following the recent Memorandum of agreement signed between environmental researchers in China and the UK took place earlier this month. One of the CEH participants, Dr Bryan Spears, tells us more...

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Sciences (RCEES) signed the MoU with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and the James Hutton Institute (JHI) in March 2013 [news story], initially to target research on topics including recovery of polluted environments, water management, food security, soil contamination and the development of eco-toxicology tools for environmental monitoring.

Researchers from all four institutes met in Beijing between 14-18 April. One of the areas of discussion was the remediation and restoration of polluted environments, and a team including Professor Gang Pan (CAS), Professor Stephen Maberly (CEH), Dr Bryan Spears (CEH) and Dr Andrew Vinten (JHI) participated in four days of dialogue and field trips which focused on the restoration and management of lakes and their catchments. These discussions were extremely productive and were used to produce both short-term and long-term research objectives.

Figure 1: Researchers from the four groups outside CAS

Day 1 was allocated to joint presentations (Pan, Maberly, Spears and Vinten) with Professor Pan’s colleagues and students in attendance, to outline current areas of expertise, facilities and collaborative opportunities.
  • Professor Pan outlined a range of geo-engineering techniques developed for the rapid control of cyanobacteria in freshwater lakes and presented some novel techniques for encouraging macrophyte recovery and controlling redox conditions in surface sediments.
  • Professor Maberly introduced research conducted by the Lake Ecology Group at Lancaster including studies on the ecological and physical responses of lakes to climate change, nutrient enrichment and the ingress of invasive species and highlighted the potential for lakes to feedback to climate systems through carbon processing pathways.
  • Dr Spears presented work on lake restoration including data screening approaches being used to combine large spatial scale and long-term lake monitoring data sets to aid the selection and application of appropriate lake management measures. Dr Spears also presented an update on whole lake experiments using geo-engineering approaches for the control of legacy phosphorus sources in bed sediments.
  • Dr Vinten highlighted the need to learn from local communities, especially with regards to how the management of water resources can be fitted to local community needs – whether in Scotland or China. This need was demonstrated using stakeholder-led catchment management case studies including Rescobie Loch on the Lunan Water in Angus and in the Pantanal, Brazil.

Day 2 and 3 included an overnight visit to Datong to see the recently built large experimental ponds where a trial of Modified Local Soils had been conducted to rapidly remove harmful cyanobacterial from treatment ponds (Figure 2 and 3). This experimental facility was funded by the Datong City Water Supply and Drainage Group Ltd and will be used to develop novel management strategies for the improvement of water quality in the nearby Cetian Reservoir, as well as being developed to support international research collaborations.

Figure 2: Experimental treatment ponds

Figure 3: Professor Pan holding treated and untreated water

The visit was hosted by the water company who also participated in a discussion on local issues of water management and economic costs of treatment (Figure 4). The importance of the newly constructed experimental facility for the development of novel management measures with which treatment costs can be reduced was discussed, as was the importance of international collaboration to meet these objectives. 

Figure 4: Prof Stephen Maberly discussing the importance of the facility with
Dr Zengguang Zhang of the Datong City Water Supply and Drainage Group Ltd,
and other stakeholders.

On Day 4 the group discussed collaborative research opportunities and structured these into a research strategy. This strategy has at its core the collection of joint data sets and exchange of expertise to fill knowledge gaps in each collaborating institute.

After a busy few days, the trip ended on the evening of 18 April with just enough time for a social event involving Karaoke, one of the (dubious) highlights of which was a painful rendition of Robbie Williams’ “Angels”, led by CEH pair Professor Maberly and Dr Spears!

Over the coming days the team will develop a report outlining the research objectives to be submitted to institute directors for consideration. Watch this space for further updates.

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