By Bob Foreman
Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre Data Lead
June is a fantastic month for getting involved in all sorts of weird and wonderful outdoor activities, at the wonderful end of the spectrum we have 30 Days Wild with all its random acts of wildness and at the slightly weirder end there is the World Naked Bike Ride in London (each to their own…). However, in amongst all this frivolity is another, deadly serious event: “The 1000 Species Challenge” you have probably heard of it, but if you haven’t, it’s where the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Senior Ecologist and one of our trustees pit their wits against Sussex’s wildlife in an attempt to identify, and more importantly, record, 1000 species in a 24 hour period. When I say “record”, I don’t mean that they will be getting down on their hands and knees with microphones to capture the sound of stridulating grasshoppers, I mean preserving the details of not only what species it was that they have seen but all the other details of their observation too.
Now, these guys are real pros, Graeme (our ecologist) can list more than 6500 UK species that he has seen and identified. He has the extraordinary ability to sweep a net through some long grass, turn out what he catches and identify every bug, beetle, spider and grasshopper (as well as the plants that he has just put the net through) without hesitation and with scientific names too. Their challenge really is one for the experts but the main message that they are trying to get across is the importance and value of biological recording and that anyone can do it. Graeme’s mantra is that if you don’t know what species are present how can you possibly help to conserve them? and that message applies everywhere.
The Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre (SxBRC) is the hub for biological recording in Sussex and it is here that the records from the 1000 Species Challenge will end up. The SxBRC database contains more than 6.25 million records from across the two counties and this figure is growing every day. Very few of these records come from professional ecologists; the overwhelming majority are from Sussex’s not so small army of enthusiastic amateur naturalists many of whom have hundreds or even thousands of records in the system.
All records are valuable and ideally, nothing should go unrecorded. Obviously that would be a little unrealistic but we always welcome records of anything, the commonest or the rarest of species. The data the SxBRC holds can be used in untold different ways; informing conservation management, in planning or in scientific research to name but a few. We pass the data to those organisations that will make good use of it. What we need to make this work are the biological recorders and anyone can do it. We want to know everything - what birds or butterflies have you see in your garden? Have you seen bats flying around the streetlamps outside your house? What do you see if you go for a walk on the downs or in the woods?Get involved in wildlife recording here