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Environment: Open University

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 23 August 2007

Malham Dale in North Yorkshire is an area of outstanding beauty.

It’s known for the Tarn, one of the highest lakes in the UK, and its striking limestone rocks.

Anyone who’s walked around the area will have appreciated the wide sweeping views, but may not have been aware of the vast number of plants that grow on the limestone.

This week Quentin Cooper is at the Field Centre in Malham with a group of Open University students who are learning how to do environmental research.

He accompanies them to two sites - a bog and a hillside - and watches them as they set up their areas of study, or quadrats.

The students then identify the species inside their quadrats and estimate how much of the area they cover. On the limestone hillside they can find up to 65 species of plants.

Quentin discusses the importance of this kind of environmental research with three experts who are working with the students - Robin Sutton from the Field Centre, and Hilary Denny and Mark Brandon from the Open University.

They explain how the use of quadrats is the standard approach taken by professional ecologists.

And they talk about how ecologists use the National Vegetation Classification system to understand the UK landscape.

Quentin finds out about how knowledge gained from quadrats can reveal the impact of climate change and help decide which areas of the country should be conserved.


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