How many species live on our nature reserves?

, 25 January 2017
How many species live on our nature reserves?

By Graeme Lyons

Senior Ecologist

Pan-species listing is an approach to natural history that treats all species equally, it pushes you into difficult areas and adds a bit of friendly competition to boot. Have a look at this excellent website for more information on this and how you could sign up. My own personal pan-species list has took something of a back seat over the last two months and so has entering records. The reason: You see, on the website beyond your own personal quest to see as many species as possible we set up the 'location rankings' too. This way a site can have a pan-species list, collated down the decades by a complementary consortium of naturalists. This, I always thought would have profound implications for wildlife conservation...but the dream of every reserve manager in the UK creating and maintaining a pan-species list for their sites never took off. Yet.

So I felt like I needed to kick start things and show everyone the benefits. Now I'd had a stab at some of our sites before but I hadn't maintained a list, just the species totals. So what better way is there to celebrate all the amazing wildlife I help look after than to know EXACTLY what it is and, to really add some value to it, WHEN (year) it was last recorded. So I started it and I've just 'finished' it. Obviously it will never be finished and it's been designed to be continuously updated. So where to start? Perhaps with why. And what I think we'll be able to use it for.

  • Straight off, fun and interesting facts. I can now pretty much tell you anything about the species on our sites. Such as we have recorded 9792 species (expect this to be constantly changing). 5548 of these are insects and 6204 are invertebrates. 63.4% of everything recorded on our reserves is an invertebrate. Vertebrates come in at 406 species (4.2%). And people wonder why I am always banging on about insects? Anyway, this is going to be a treasure trove for the Communications team. Take for example 'unique' species. Species seen on only one of the 32 sites. Of the 9792 species, 3802 have only been seen at one site! (38.8%). Rye Harbour has the lion's share of uniques with 1274 being recorded there (29.8% of what is there has only been recorded there on our reserve network). All the photos in the above collage are of unique species. Perhaps analysing by reserve manager will be the most controversial (i.e. who has the most species on their reserves - and yes I have already done it!).
  • It has value in its own right as an inventory of what we have and when it was last recorded. Using the conservation statuses, you can do all sorts of analyses on site quality. You can also use this to inform the management plans. The biological site description is going to be rather effortless from now on. The plan from now is to only update each site from the records that come in to the Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre when the plans are up for renewal or mid-term renewal, every five years basically. This is only then a few hours work. In the mean time...
  • A copy of the spreadsheet will be given to anyone that wants it: Reserve managers, volunteers, keen naturalists. They can then update and fill in the gaps but the deal is EVERYTHING has to be submitted to the Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre, putting it in the spreadsheet doesn't count other than as a guide for these people on the ground as it is the records that are put in to SxBRC that will be used to update, by me, every five years. The plans are all on a rotation, three or four come up each year.
  • You can run the invertebrate data through a resource database to tell you more about your sites that way.
  • It highlights gaps. And there are some huge gaps that I would never have realised if I hadn't gone through this process. I'll be talking about these briefly at Adastra. Two of our big sites have not a single fly record!!! In one case, this is already being addressed in 2017.
  • The whole thing is modular. You can say pull out just the moths and do a talk to Sussex Moth Group, which is already happening by the way. It works the other way too. Imagine what the WHOLE Wildlife Trust network species list would look like?! Then you could look at the unique species to Sussex!

These are just some of the reasons that I have always believed pan-species listing is such a good thing for nature conservation. It's an approach that leaves no stone unturned and favours the little guys as much as it does the big obvious ones.

Click here to find out the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s top ten most well-recorded nature reserves

I'd like to say a huge thank you to all the people that have helped particularly Bob Foreman and the Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre, Chris Bentley (for compiling Rye Harbour's species list), Frances Abraham and everyone of you that has ever submitted a record from one of our reserves.

Leave a comment


  • Caroline Boxall:

    Great work. What are the contact details (e-mail?) to get a copy of the spreadsheet please?

    26 Jan 2017 19:50:44

  • Graeme Lyons:

    Hi Caroline, could you email me at [email protected] please?

    30 Jan 2017 08:38:10