Rare stag beetles inhabiting University grounds

Rare stag beetles inhabiting University grounds

19 August 2015

Canterbury Christ Church University is celebrating its extensive and innovative work to create a biodiverse campus after finding endangered stag beetles in its gardens.

A recent BioBlitz, a rapid ecological appraisal involving students and staff from the School of Human and Life Sciences, uncovered a wide range of plants and animals in the gardens of St Martin’s Priory, to which the stag beetle was found.

The stag beetle, know to experts as the Lucanus cervus, is a large and distinctive species, which is becoming increasingly endangered and even extinct in parts of the UK.

Professor Peter Vujakovic, Chair of the University’s Biodiversity Working Group, said: ”Over-zealous clearing of old dead and decaying wood, for example, grinding out tree stumps, is depriving these animals of a home for their larval stage. The larvae spend several years developing underground in rotting wood, and only emerge as adults for a few months during the summer to breed.

“This find is an important indication that we are managing our site appropriately.”

The exciting BioBlitz finding has been registered with The Great Stag Hunt campaign, run by the People's Trust for Endangered Species, one of a number of organisations countrywide who work to conserve wildlife.

Dr Joe Burman, a member of the School's Ecology Research Group (ERG), who has been involved in projects in Sweden and the UK related to the conservation of saproxylic beetles (beetles whose larvae live on dead wood), said: “It is really exciting to find that we have a thriving colony of stag beetles on our campus, and that this is the result of years of sympathetic management by our excellent grounds team.”

This was echoed by the organiser of the event, Dr Rodrigo Vega, Senior Lecturer in the School of Human and Life Sciences. He said: “This find is exactly what the BioBlitz initiative is about, the recording of both common and rare species on your doorstep. As well as recording the stag beetle, we will also be submitting our full record to the national BioBlitz run by the Bristol Natural History Consortium."

Professor Vujakovic continued: “The University's Bioversity initiative, to nurture the habitats within the Canterbury UNESCO World Heritage Site and its surrounding buffer, is an important part of our sustainability strategy. As well as the stag beetles, we were able to record a range of plants, mammals, insects and amphibians on the site and the adjacent Saxon church yard of St Martin's.

“The fact that we host so many organisms is an indication of the healthy environment our estates team have developed through a conscious drive to enhance biodiversity."

The BioBlitz results are currently being collated and entered into various regional and national surveys. Several members of staff and students at Christ Church are also Volunteer Kent Heritage Tree Surveyors, and several new trees will be added to the Heritage Lottery funded survey run by the Trust for Conservation Volunteers (TCV).

Notes to Editor

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With almost 18,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 97% of our UK graduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2013 UCAS).
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2012/13 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

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Last edited: 04/12/2017 23:03:00