University of Sussex Media Release.
. Biodiversity in Papua New Guinea to be safeguarded by University of Sussex project

26 April 2001
For immediate release

A three-year project to train local people to conserve the rich environment of Papua New Guinea will be led by University of Sussex ecologist Dr Alan Stewart.

'Papua New Guinea is one of the few remaining relatively untouched environments,' says Dr Stewart. 'This project will train local people in the skills they need to help preserve it.'

As elsewhere in the world, the rain forest in Papua New Guinea is under mounting pressure from commercial demand for tropical timber, and there is also a threat of pollution from mining for gold, silver and copper. Biodiversity, defined as the existence of a wide variety of plant and animal species in their natural environment, is consequently under real threat, and the aim of this project is to help Papua New Guinea to avoid the kind of serious environmental problems - such as the major slash-and-burn forest fires in Indonesia - that other countries have suffered as they develop economically.

The project has received 163,000 in funding from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) as part of the Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species. This initiative is designed to apply British conservation expertise in countries that are rich in biodiversity but have only limited financial resources. The project will run from June this year until May 2004 and will train locals in the skills necessary to undertake biodiversity surveys. Twice a year, Dr Stewart will visit Papua New Guinea to provide several weeks of intensive training and fieldwork. In addition, two trainees will visit Sussex each summer for further training.

During the course of the project, six major surveys will be undertaken in different provinces of Papua New Guinea. The training will cover everything from collection of samples and data analysis to publication and presentation of results at conferences. At the end of the project, the team will be self sustaining and able to take on contract work. Dr Stewart will be collaborating with Dr Vojtech Novotny from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and Dr Mike Wilson from the National Museums and Galleries of Wales in Cardiff, both of whom are long-standing collaborators with Dr Stewart.

Notes for editors

For further information, please contact Peter Simmons, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678209, Fax 01273 877456, email P.J.Simmons@sussex.ac.uk or Alison Field, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 877456, email A.Field@sussex.ac.uk. Dr Alan Stewart can be contacted on (01273) 877476 or email a.j.a.stewart@sussex.ac.uk.

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