The state of pan-species listing at the end of 2016

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 31 December 2016 09:14

Well, 2016 has been the worst year and for a multitude of reasons, I am very glad it's over. Natural history was kind to me though, with the find of my career landing in front of me whilst the rest of the pan-species community were having the annual field meeting up at Holm in Norfolk. A meeting I was not able to attend as I had too much freelance work to do wandering hundreds of miles around winter wheat fields when it jumped out in front of me. Oh the irony. Have I mentioned Calosoma sycophanta by the way? Yes? Sorry, didn't think I had.

Anyway, this is my annual post about the PSL community (couldn't help gripping everyone off one last time there). So, last year I wrote this post a few months late after grabbing the data in Tasmania of all places. I'll follow the same format, so here is the top ten from the rankings and the changes that have took place in the last year.

2015 2016 Change
1 Jonty Denton 12240 12399 159
2 Dave Gibbs 11110 11327 217
3 Mark Telfer 7172 7478 306
4 The late Eric Philp 6878 6878 0
5 Simon Davey 6513 6722 209
6 Brian Eversham 6271 6650 379
7 Nicola Bacciu 6074 6515 441
8 Graeme Lyons 6029 6398 369
9 Malcolm Storey 5915 6230 315
10 Matt Prince 5840 6142 302

So there are no actual changes in the top ten rankings order. Last year I added the 100th lister which was Rowan Alder on 903. Now it's Adam Harley on 1183. He might not of updated for two years or more but it shows that the top 100 listers have all seen 1183 species or more, a jump of 280 species! That's really great stuff.  Our youngest lister remains 12 with a new recruit in the form of young lad from Northern Ireland and our oldest is 72. Thanks in part to James McCulloch's excellent article on PSL in Wingbeat about him reaching 2000 species, we had a wave of under 20's joining the rankings with 10 people listed now! The average remains 38 with 75 people having submitted their age now. We have 381 users on the website (up from 300) with 192 on the rankings (up from 154). The facebook group has been quieter this year but it works fine with 288 people (up from 261).

So, what about the site rankings?

2015 2016
1   Wicken Fen 8674 Wicken Fen 8674
2   Esher Commons 7945 Esher Commons 7945
3   RSPB Minsmere 5928 RSPB Minsmere 5928
4   Thorn Moors 5052 Thorn Moors 5052
5   RSPB Abernethy 4735 RSPB Abernethy 4735
6   RSPB The Lodge 4290 RSPB The Lodge 4290
7   Hatfield Forest 4184 SWT Rye Harbour 4274
8   SWT Rye Harbour 3540 Hatfield Forest 4184
9   Northwich Community Woodlands 3118 SWT Ebernoe Common 3708
10   SWT Iping & Stedham 2800 Northwich Community Woodlands 3118

The changes are in bold. The only changes here have been those made by myself in the last week by updating the Rye Harbour list with Chris Bentley and adding the Ebernoe Common list, this is still a part of PSL and the website that hasn't really taken off. My recent work on pan-listing the whole of Sussex Wildlife Trust's reserves is hoped to help reinvigorate this by showing the benefits to maintaining site PSL lists. Watch out RSPB the Lodge, Chris Bentley will have that 6th place slot by the end of 2017!

And now for the top taxa listers. Again changes in bold.

2015 2016
Algae Jony Denton 288 288
Slime Moulds Malcolm Storey 51 51
Protists Jony Denton 24 24
Lichens Simon Davey 1195 1228
Fungi Malcom Storey 1391 1391
Bryophytes Simon Davey 467 480
Vascular Plants John Martin 2205 2278
Sponges Richard Comont   8 12
Comb-jellies Lee Johnson   2 3
Cnidarians Richard Comont 37 44
Molluscs Jonty Denton 216 222
Bryozoans Richard Comont 23 27
Annelids Richard Comont 48 51
Platyhelminth worms Brian Eversham 17 18
Sea-spiders Richard Comont 4 4
Arachnids Jonty Denton 492 493
Myriapods Keith Lugg 71 77
Crustaceans Brian Eversham 98 99
Springtails Richard Comont 35 44
3-tailed Bristletails Mark Telfer   6 8
Odonata Mark Telfer, Dave Gibbs 48 48
Orthopteroids Mark Telfer 41 41
Hemipteroids Jonty Denton 850 861
Hymenoptera Dave Gibbs 792 809
Coleoptera Mark Telfer 2562 2632
Diptera Dave Gibbs 3123 3146
Butterflies Seth Gibson 62 62
Moths Tony Davis 1617 1628
Remaining small  Jonty Denton 194 195
Echinoderms Richard Comont 19 19
Tunicates Richard Comont 17 22
Fish Richard Comont 95 97
Reptiles Dave Gibbs,  Richard Comont   9 9
Seth Gibson, James Harding-Morris, Simon Davey  
Paul Clack  
Amphibians Jonty Denton 13 13
Birds Dave Gibbs 519 527
Mammals Mark Telfer 64 64
Other animals Jonty Denton 36 36
TOTAL 16739 17051
So lots of new records broken there! It feels like PSL is really starting to reach a wider and much younger audience and this has to be a good thing, I wish I had had PSL when I was 12 I can tell you! It's been so rewarding to see this unfold and to know that I've personally been so involved at making the website happen and promoting the movement etc. 

This year I've done a talk on PSL in pub in Brighton. I'd had two pints before I started and I have to say it's so much more fun doing talks when you can swear like a trooper! It turned in to stand up by the end but I got the message across. I must make an effort to get out more to do natural history for fun, almost all of my ticks this year have been through work again. This is hugely rewarding and I think is when PSL works best but it's not a good way to stay in the top ten!

Anyway, I will try and make the field meeting this year rather than working (did I mention I saw Calosoma sycophanta during the last field trip?) so I can finally meet some of the community, in the meantime, happy listing and let's hope 2017 is a better year than 2016!

So I pan-listed the WHOLE Sussex Wildlife Trust

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 29 December 2016 12:48

Pan-species listing: If you haven't heard of it yet, then where have you been for the last six years? Seriously though, if you need a re-cap have a look at our most excellent website. 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. This is the first of a series of posts I'm going to write to explain why I did it, what can be done, what analysis there is and how to come to terms with my life after the list (maybe to get ALL the wildlife trusts to create one mega-list?!). So not too many spoilers yet on the stats, I'm going to drip feed them as I actually figure out new and novel ways to analyse this behemoth of a spreadsheet. 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 9770 species (expect this to be constantly changing). 5537 of these are insects and 6188 are invertebrates. 63.3% 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 9770 species, 3799 have only been seen at one site! (38.9%). Rye Harbour has the lion's share of uniques with 1276 being recorded there (29.9% 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 SxBRC 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 SxBRC, 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. Only three staff are going to have access to the master list though.

  • 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 like 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. 

So what's next? Some talks coming up and various articles to go out on this. I'm keen to run a series of blogs on it over the next few months, the next might be on uniqueness but it could be on the beetles of Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves, I'm open to suggestions. I feel like I have created a monster/a thing of beauty and I am yet to know quite how to realise all of its potential. I'm looking forward to getting on with other stuff again though.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to all the people that have helped particularly Bob Foreman, Chris Bentley (for compiling Rye Harbour's species list), Frances Abraham and many many more.

My top ten natural history highlights of 2016

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 18 December 2016 12:05

What a year. I started with the first month in the southern hemisphere, then had possibly the busiest and often most stressful year of my life but I found some great stuff on the way, Including what I think is the highlight of my career so far. As ever, natural history and conservation has been my rock. So, in reverse order...

10. I don't do slugs but back in February I went all the way to Wales to see a whole slimy bunch of them. Here is the Alsatian Semi-slug.

9. I've wanted to see these freaky Tompot Blennies for years and was pleased to find loads off Saltdean in September.

8. It wasn't my first record of this as I had one last year but it was the first for West Sussex and the first for one of our reserves (Levin Down). Here is the awesome Platyrhinus resinosus.

7. Resurveying the ditches at Amberley was great as there was such positive changes. Like this Marsh Cinquefoil appearing in of our ditches after it was cleared.

6. Surveying the Murray Downland Trust's sites with Mike Edwards produced lots of surprises, such as this Villa cingulata at Heyshott Down.

5. I don't often see new longhorn beetles but the beetle season started with a bang with this Mesosa nebulosa found at Sheffield Park on a BMIG meeting by Nathan Clements in April.

4. The repeat of the big farm surveys in 2016 showed one of the farms in East Sussex become internationally significant for arable plants. I stumbled across three species I had never even seen before, like this Stinking Chamomile.

3. New Zealand was an incredible place. Perhaps the best memories are of the amazing seabirds. I'll never forget the first time an albatross flew right over our heads!

2. Sometimes a hunch pays off. An early morning start and we bagged the first records for Columbus Crabs in Sussex off Brighton Beach, all the way from the Sargasso!

1. Do I need to say anything other than CALOSOMA SYCOPHANTA!!!

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