POTENTIAL indicators of climate change were unearthed when staff from Weymouth Sea Life Park and Dorset Wildlife Trust pulled on their wellies to go in search of marine life at Newton’s Cove near Weymouth.

The team spent two-and-a-half hours logging plant and animal life they found in the inter-tidal area and rockpools on and around the beach in a bid to win protection for the fragile shoreline and shallow water habitats along the Dorset coastline.

The event was organised as part of Dorset Wildlife Trust’s three-year investigation into what they have termed the ‘Welly Zone’.

Kathryn Dawson from DWT said: “We found some top shells which are potentially a climate change indicator as they may be expanding their region. They are found along the South West coast but Dorset is the far east of their range, so it will be interesting to see if they increase in number over the years.

“Another potential indicator is the presence of wireweed which isn’t native but comes from Asia. We think it arrives via ballast water and it spreads very quickly and shades out native algae.”

Kathryn added that the trust is aiming to set up shore observation groups across the county to monitor any changes in the inter-tidal area and also the strandline of beaches.

She said: “The idea of working with the Sea Life centre was to help staff there develop identification skills and feel more in touch with local marine life.

“We gave a presentation and then went down on to the beach and spent two hours there. We are now aiming to set up more local groups all across Dorset to keep in touch with what is going on along our beaches.”

Sea Life marine expert Chris Brown said: “Our mission is to gather evidence of the wealth of marine life that depends on the inter-tidal zone, to protect it from future development.”

And his colleague Emma Vagg added: “It was a really good day and it is good to get involved with a local charity and learn more about local marine wildlife.

“We found some really interesting things and it is something I think we will be carrying on with in the future.”

Anyone interested in helping DWT with their on-going survey should contact Julie Hatcher at the Kimmeridge centre via dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk or turn up at a strandline exploration day at Osmington Mills near Weymouth on September 10 from 10.30am until 4pm.