Thursday, 22 August 2013

INTECOL news round-up: pollinators, citizen science and land use

As the INTECOL 2013 congress moves into its fifth (and penultimate) day, here is a brief round-up of some of the news from this week's event featuring CEH researchers:

  • Important results from a CEH-led project under the Insect Pollinators Initiative have been highlighted, which could help land managers and policy makers ensure the countryside is better suited to the needs of pollinators. You can read more about that in our news story, "Ecologists get first bumblebees' eye view of the landscape", on the CEH website.

  • Citizen science, although not particularly new, has been growing in popularity recently. On Wednesday, Dr Michael Pocock of CEH gave a presentation which looked at the diversity of environmental and ecological citizen science and how advances in technology, including social media and mobile phone apps, are transforming 21st century ecology.

    Today, Michael and CEH colleague Dr Helen Roy are leading a workshop that hopes to inspire new citizen science ventures - and are launching a Citizen Science Special Interest Group to help encourage efforts. Michael spoke to the British Ecological Society about this important area of engagement:

    "Citizen science has contributed to long-term data sets that have allowed us to understand the effects of things like climate change that would have been impossible otherwise."

    The new citizen science special interest group is designed to help the next generation of professional ecologists use citizen science effectively. Michael explained, "Many ecologists recognise the importance of engaging with people about science and citizen science provides a way for them to do that while undertaking real scientific research. There is lots of opportunity for creativity and innovation in this area, and you can have lots of impact with little financial investment, so the group will foster and promote this creativity in ecologists, especially those early in their career."
  • The Biological Records Centre at CEH recently launched a new citizen science resource 'Ecological Interactions' in association with iSpot. Ecological Interactions is a web tool allowing members of the public to explore and record ecological relationships between species. All organisms are part of a web of connections with other species, often formed by feeding relationships.

    Read more about citizen science coming of age in a news release from the British Ecological Society.

    • Prof James Bullock of CEH was among a group of ecologists discussing the challenges and tools for studying biological invasions on a European level during a workshop on Wednesday which was sponsored by the European Ecological Federation. They outlined the challenges Europe faces in understanding and controlling invasive species. More details can be found in this British Ecological Society blog post.

    • Finally, news of an intriguing study that used maps made more than 70 years ago but which could help reverse pollinator decline today. This is the first study of its kind to look at the impact of historic land use changes on pollinator communities in Britain. It shows that the dramatic changes in land use since World War II, in particular agricultural intensification and urbanisation, have had a significant impact on pollinator communities.

      Using newly-developed statistical techniques, the team from the University of Reading, University of Leeds and Centre for Ecology & Hydrology analysed two sets of historical data: pollinator data from 1921-1950 based on more than half a million records collected by the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society since 1800 and now digitised; and the Dudley Stamp Land Utilisation survey from the 1930s, the earliest known land use map of Britain. By comparing this historical data for 21 sites across England with recent pollinator records and land cover maps, including the 2007 Land Cover Map developed by CEH, they found that 85% of sites had suffered declines in pollinator species richness of between 10 and 50% over the past 80-100 years.

    INTECOL continues at Excel in London until Friday 23 August. Read more about CEH's participation in our previous blog post.

    The hashtag to follow on Twitter for updates and reaction to talks is #INT13.

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