Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Marwell Zoo BioBlitz -13th September 2014 Results

An update from Owen Middleton to his previous article about a BioBlitz, or wildlife survey, at Marwell Zoo.

Conservation at Marwell Zoo is of top priority and considering it acts as a home to over 140 exotic species of mammal, from Pigmy Hippos to Amur Leopard, it is a great place to see how important international conservation is to promote global biodiversity. It is sometimes easy to forget about our smaller global inhabitants, the invertebrates. At Marwell, you can also see many exotic invertebrates from Hissing Cockroaches to a whole, intricate, colony of Leaf Cutter Ants. The display of these fascinating creatures is also vital for the promotion of our own local biodiversity from fungi to invertebrates to larger mammals.

A BioBlitz is an event that sees the integration of the public working alongside professional Ecologists in a day of capturing and identification our local wildlife in a specific area. On September 13th, Marwell Zoo hosted there first ever BioBlitz to discover the local biodiversity around different areas within the zoo. To conduct this event at a zoo was an extremely interesting idea as local biodiversity isn’t one that’s often considered at zoos whereas global biodiversity is most considered by the visiting public. This was a unique approach to the promotion of biodiversity on a local scale in comparison to the countless exotic animals already seen by the public.

After collecting data from a variety of habitats on several trips, including a freshwater pond, the Amphibian Arc and the Wildflower habitat, the data was taken by Marwell professionals and analysed over the coming weeks. It was eventually revealed that the hard efforts of the keen wildlife volunteers managed to identify and record 267 species from around the park. It can be seen from Figure 1 below that the range of species varied considerably, from the most diverse being flowering plants to the less common terrestrial mammals including field mice. The range of the animals collected and recorded looks to be extremely positive and shows great biodiversity within the park, alongside the diverse exotic animals displayed.

Figure 1 (Above): Local biodiversity at Marwell Zoo as collected on the 13th September 2014
(click for larger view)

Even though the results have been promising, it could prove in the future to be even greater. With improvements to the event, including more habitats searched, longer periods of searching at each area and searching at different times of the day, it could cause the identification of an even greater range of species that spans birds as well as plants, fungi and invertebrates. This being said, it is a strong data set to use and will be of great use to compare in future years to come to judge declines or (hopefully) increases in our local biodiversity.

Personally, I would recommend BioBlitz to anyone. It is a great way to get to know your local wildlife as well as feeling a sense of accomplishment towards a complete data set with actual results that will benefit the area of interest. Marwell Zoo is just one of many of these events that occur throughout the year and anybody with an interest in nature should aim to get involved.

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