Tuesday, 15 May 2012

BioBlitzing



A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying that attempts to record all the living species within a designated area over a set time period, usually 24 hours. Teams of volunteer scientists, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible.  The emphasis is on recording the total number of species, not naming every creature that has been found.  A BioBlitz gives adults, kids, and teens the opportunity to join biologists in the field and participate in bona fide biological research. It's a fun and exciting way to learn about the diversity of local habitats and to better understand how to protect them. 



While species identification is the backbone of any event, the focus of the BioBlitz can differ depending on the priorities of the leading group. 

National Geographic is helping conduct a BioBlitz in a different national park each year during the decade leading up to the U.S. National Park Service Centennial in 2016.  BioBlitz 2012 is being held in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.   This is a huge event with thousands of volunteers mapping extensive national parkland.  The 2011 BioBlitz in Saguaro National Park added over 400 species to the park’s known species list, and at least 1 species of bryophyte was found that is potentially new to science.



Other BioBlitzes in the past have been linked to conservation projects through such activities as shore or land clean-ups.  A species can’t be protected if no-one knows it’s there. Linking the BioBlitz explicitly to conservation is an ideal way to make it clear to participants how their findings can contribute to local and national conservation efforts. Once participants have identified and listed the species, they can determine a way to apply these findings to local conservation or clean-up initiatives.  A baseline species list has been created and can also be used to judge the biological success of any environmental endeavours.  Further to that a BioBlitz can also help to identify the presence of invasive species in your area and allow for early intervention.  Details of UK non-native species can be found on at https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/nonnativespecies/index.cfm?sectionid=47



Many community led events opt for a shorter BioBlitz that introduces the local community to their native species and to the idea that biodiversity is important in their area.  The shorter time of a few hours might not provide such a full picture but is still very useful as a species mapping tool and has the advantage of being more accessible to younger members of the community and is more likely to hold their interest.  Groups can involve environmental and educational activities around the blitz which will heighten the experience.  This Canadian website offers some suggestions for activities on the day http://www.get-to-know.org/bioblitz/ 



There are BioBlitz’s happening all over the UK this year.  The Cultural Olympiad has made biodiversity one of the focuses of the Olympic year.  Inspired by the conservation work on the Olympic Park, Meet the Species is encouraging people to get involved in wildlife surveying events across the UK, to find out more about the natural world on their doorstep.  The findings will be used to help protect and conserve wildlife in the future, just as the survey work on the Olympic Park has informed experts on the best way to design, build and manage the Park with people and wildlife in mind.  As such they have 2012 species which they would like to identify through accredited BioBlitz’s or meet the species events.  A full list of UK events is available at http://www.bnhc.org.uk/home/meet-the-species/events/accredited-events-list.html
The registered events happening in Scotland are here - http://www.bnhc.org.uk/home/bioblitz/national-bioblitz/scotland.html

To help with the identification of species there is a new website called iSpot.  Once registered with the site people can upload photographs and either add an identification or leave as unidentified.  Other users are then able/encouraged to view your submission and agree or disagree with your identification.  Eventually this will enable better mapping of species across the UKhttp://www.ispot.org.uk/



Each UK BioBlitz will help form a clearer picture of the number and spread of species within the UK.  This will provide a guideline for native species conservation and a framework for dealing with invasive species.  Getting the local community involved in the BioBlitz provides educational opportunities and raises awareness of local habitats.  It also has the benefit of increasing outside activity among the local community by encouraging exploration of local areas.

Westquarter Wildlife Group are running a Meet the Species Event on 19th May 10am-2pm at the Westquarter Community Project beside Westquarter Primary School.  There will also be a bat walk in the evening for which places need to be booked.  All are welcome to the day event but to book your place for the bat walk please contact Les Wallace at les@wallacerecyc.fslife.co.uk