Broom broom

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 29 January 2019 13:48

Last summer I was fortunate to find three of these in a sweep net. This wasn't in Sussex though. Gargara genistae (above) is a local species that feeds on Broom, there is only one Sussex record. It was found in Rewell Wood in 1982 (I don't think it's been recorded in East Sussex) by Wilberforce Jones and E. C. M. Haes. Actually there was a second lifer in the net, the Broom Leaf Beetle Gonioctena olivacea. Anther local species but not a particularly rare one (below). Broom just isn't that common in Sussex. When I say common, it's definitely widespread but if you want good populations of invertebrates that feed on a specific plant, you need lots of that plant in lots of places in the landscape. I rarely get to sweep Broom like this in Sussex. Flatropers has got a bit but it's isolated in woodland and rarely has anything on it.

Anyway back to the charming Gargara. It's one of only two tree hoppers we have. The other being the much commoner Centrotus cornutus. I think Gargara genistae is probably the closest insect in the UK to a cube in its proportions. Plea minutissima might give it a run for its money though. Is there anything else more cube-like out there?

What has pan-species listing Sussex Wildlife Trust's reserve network done for us?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 19 January 2019 10:07

As there is an excellent article in BBC's Wildlife Magazine on pan-species listing this month, I thought I would celebrate the updating of the master pan species-list for Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves.

Since I first compiled the spreadsheet around two years ago, we have increased the number of species recorded on the 32 reserves from 9790 to an incredible 10241 species, that's a 4.6% increase. This is an incredible achievement, especially when you look at the total number of new site records across all the 32 reserves. There have been in just two years, 4727 species recorded new to a particular site. We certainly would have recorded many of these without the spreadsheet but a large number of them are being driven by having this resource.

Above is the Six-spotted Pot Beetle Cryptocephalus sexpunctatus (nationally rare, Endangered, BAP) that Alice found at Flatropers in 2017 (Alice's photo too). We have not found another. It's one of the most significant discoveries we have made on our reserves in recent years, I am unbelievably gripped and despite two attempts we have not found another. Alice found this while doing some casual recording (we carried out a more comprehensive survey there in 2014). Analysing a site list like this using the pan-species listing approach gives as much weight to casual recording as it does  to standardised surveys. It pulls it all together in a way that a more rigid monitoring strategy alone might not.

Now I am not in anyway suggesting that structured monitoring is anything other than a wonderful and vital thing but this is another layer to site assessment that is often missed because it requires a bit of work to pull it together and a good knowledge of taxonomy and conservation status. I'd like species recording to stay at the very core of modern conservation.

Quite often you might not record the rarest species on a site during a survey because they are there at extremely low densities, might be present at different times of the year to when you are surveying and of course might not have even been there at all at the time. Only this week when working through some casual recording I did with the suction sampler at Seaford Head last May, I recorded Dipoena prona (nationally rare & Endangered), this is the first record in Sussex since 1900 and the first for the network, it's REALLY rare. I found Pardosa paludicola (nationally rare, Endangered)  during a standardised survey (at Butcherlands in 2017). Thanks to Evan Jones for the photo. However it was recorded, it exists on the spreadsheet as a single row. This is the beauty the pan-species listing approach. All species count with an accumulative list.

There have been some huge jumps in the individual site's species-lists. Ebernoe Common has jumped by 8.8% from 3711 species to 4037, mainly through an invertebrate survey that Mike Edwards and I did at Butcherlands there in 2017.  Rye Harbour has only jumped by 79 species to 4354. So watch out Rye Harbour, Ebernoe Common is gaining on you! There have been no changes in the rankings of the top ten.

With help from Mark Colvin and Martin Allison, we added Arched Earthstar to the reserve network list at Ebernoe in 2018. I think this is now Near Threatened.

All these reserves have had huge increases though:

Gillham Woods. 150% increase from 108 species to 270
Selwyns Wood.  46.2% increase from 498 to 728
Brickfield Meadow. 30.5% increase from 426 to 556
Graffham Common. 90.3% increase from 669 to 1273 (it's remarkable that this site has almost doubled!)
Waltham Brooks. 48.0% increase from 1062 to 1572
Leythorne Meadow. 46.7% increase from 261 to 383
Ditchling Beacon. 35.0% increase from 949 to 1281
Seaford Head. 22.4% incraese from 1358 to 1662
Withdean Woods. 91.2% from 34 to 65
Deneway 50.1% from 78 to 117

I appreciate some of these are smaller, less-designated and under-recorded sites, so these huge percentage increases are less relevant but where they are extremely significant are where the sites already have fairly large lists. The increases at Graffham Common, Waltham Brooks, Ditchling Beacon and Seaford Head are particularly significant.

I found immature Lichen Running-spiders Philodromus margaritatus (nationally rare, Near Threatened, BAP) at Graffham Common late in 2016 but didn't confirm by getting an adult until the following year. This was new to all SWT reserves.

The mean year of the last record has risen to 2007. It may well be that this is always around 12 years earlier than the time of analysis. I will test that theory this time next year. Interestingly the mode still stands at 2017 for all records but more species were recorded on our reserves in 2018 than any other year (given that the spreadsheet only shows the last year, this isn't technically correct - it only applies to the last year it was recorded on a site). A total of 2200 species were recorded last year or 21.5% of all the species we have ever recorded.

I have recently added in all the up to date conservation status for invertebrates. I had hoped this winter to get all the conservation statuses in but the lower plants and fungi were not as easy to get hold of so I haven't quite finished that. The conservation statuses are in though for invertebrates and wow, some interesting stats...

We have recorded 6513 species of invertebrate on our sites, an incredible 63.4% of all the species recorded. Of these, 1203 (18.5%) have some form of conservation status. This is a great metric to assess a site's quality for invertebrates. It's incredible to think that Rye Harbour has had 3225 species of invertebrate recorded on it. It would be our second most species-rich reserve even if it had nothing else there than invertebrates! It's the proportions of species with conservation status that are most interesting though. Rye Harbour has 15.1% but this isn't followed by Ebernoe, Ebernoe is actually 11th if you compare it this way. In fact it is Iping and Stedham Commons with 14.0% of its 2954 invertebrate species having status status.

In fact, Woods Mill has had more invertebrates recorded on it that Iping, with 1646 species. Yet only 5.5% of these have status. Reflecting the very different nature of these sites. There is lots of woodland on Wealden clay but very little heathland in Sussex (reflecting the national picture) and early successional habitat, such as that at Rye Harbour and Iping Common, is at a premium. Therefore the species that occur there are often by their very nature, rare or scarce. Ebernoe has some spectacular old-growth woodland (late successional) which is also a rare habitat but the closing over the habitat here has diluted the species list with ever increasingly commoner woodland invertebrates. However by haloing some veteran trees and creating new species-rich grassland at Ebernoe (Butcherlands), we are addressing this imbalance.

So here are the top ten reserves ranked by the number of invertebrates recorded there.

Rye Harbour 3225
Ebernoe Common 2069
Woods Mill 1646
Iping and   Stedham Commons 1638
Malling Down 1366
Flatropers 1203
Old Lodge 1054
Filsham Reedbed 1049
Seaford Head 992
Burton Pond 960

And here is the top ten reserves ranked by the proportion of those species that have conservation status. This is a great way of removing as much recorder bias as possible and becomes more powerful the more species you record. Please note, only sites with more than 250 species have been included in both these analyses. This is ALL invertebrates.

Rye Harbour 15.1%
Iping and  Stedham Commons 14.0%
Seaford Head 11.8%
Malling Down 11.3%
Graffham Common 10.4%
Ferry Field 10.3%
Southerham 9.7%
Pevensey Marshes 9.7%
Levin Down 9.6%
Burton Pond 9.4%

Old Lodge is ranked in 21st place with only 5.8% of the 1054 species having conservation status, much lower than the West Sussex heath sites. This is a direct reflection of the site being cooler and higher. It has a lot of species that are scarce in Sussex, but widespread in the north west. These themselves not being afforded conservation status. It would undoubtedly score high on the proportion of species on the Sussex Rare Species Inventory but I am yet to look at this. Graffham Common sits on the Greensand Ridge in West Sussex and is ranked 5th! Not bad for an old conifer plantation that isn't even a SSSI!

For a bit of fun I had a look at which county, East or West Sussex, had the most species overall. It was quite close. East Sussex wins with 7716 and West with 7406. 

What next? I have been talking to some wildlife trusts about helping them put their lists together and next week I will be talking to a national wildlife trust event about monitoring at the landscape scale level and I will be presenting this spreadsheet, analyses and the benefits. Make no mistake, this IS landscape conservation. Here, the landscape is defined as the Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve network. Landscape scale conservation can be about detailed species recording AND large scale trends and patterns, the two are not mutually exclusive. By comparing between sites, you can look at the 'unique' species, proportion of species with conservation status, proportion of regionally scarce species, how sites compliment each other, spacial analyses, introduced species, ubiquitous species and much more. It's a great way to be informed about your sites.

The introduced Asparagus Beetle was added to the reserve network in 2018 by sweeping heather at Iping Common. As you do.

You could do this with any network of sites at any scale, the modular nature affording both internal and external comparisons. As long as you have some assessment of quality (here I am using conservation status of invertebrates) you can start to make some valid comparisons. It just takes a bit of grunt work to build and maintain the species lists and a constant effort of recording across all taxonomic groups. I have been blown away by how many people have contributed to this since the first draft was produced two years ago, it really is a lot more than just my efforts. Obviously the role of the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre is vital in this for storing and managing the data and Bob Foreman's input has been particularly appreciated. Without your local records centre, this kind of derivation of the data would be impossible.

Whilst moth-trapping at Ebernoe Common, Tony Davis recorded the Pondweed Leafhopper (DD, BAP) at light new to the network in 2017. And below the reserve volunteers at Selwyns Wood recorded Coral-root (nationally scarce) new to the network where it appeared after their ride management.

It's also really good for generating biological information for management plans. Here is an exert from a section I recently updated for the Old Lodge plan. We do this for all taxa, here I have just included spiders:

A total of 146 species have been recorded, 17 of which have conservation status (11.6%).

“Lowland heath is richest habitat for spider diversity in UK” Andy Phillips, county spider recorder, Adastra 2006.  Despite this it has proved difficult to persuade arachnologists to visit Old Lodge.
The Raft Spider Dolomedes fimbriatus is widespread in areas of wet tussocky grass as well as ponds and the stream.  The bright green Micommatta virescens is frequently seen amongst tussocky grass.
The invertebrate survey of 2013 recorded 112 species of spider including Araneus marmoreus, Walckenaeria acuminata, Micrommata virescens and Philodromus histrio.

Visits to Old Lodge by Andy Philips, Graeme Lyons and Evan Jones were made in March 2017 and by Graeme Lyons in November 2018 to search for the rare spider Thanatus formicinus which was last seen in Sussex nearby in 1945. Although they were unsuccessful, a number of other rare species were found on these visits chiefly the money spiders Hypselistes jackosni and Notiscopus sarcinatus.

So to summarise, we have:

  • A 5% increase in species on reserves in two years from 9790 to 10241.
  • Nearly 5000 new site records in two years.
  • At a glance analysis of conservation statuses across all invertebrate groups.
  • Over 1200 species of invertebrate with conservation status now recorded.
  • Easily editable data for producing biological sections for management plans.
  • A new dimension to engage the already exceptionally engaged recording community on our reserves in Sussex.
  • Endless interesting statistics, such as 3847 species have only been recorded at one site while only three have been recorded at all 32.

So why not pan-species list your wildlife trust, conservation charity, region or site? The results speak for themselves. 

Orange is the new black

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 10 January 2019 14:45

Ground bugs are great, they are practically beetles. And this smart looking black one with a big orange blob on has been on my 'list of cool looking things I want to see' for some time. Behold, Aphanus rolandri! Now I took the above photo in the Brecks last year, the only time I have seen it. Meanwhile, Mike Edwards was doing a survey for us at West Dean Woods and picked it up there new to West Sussex within a few days of my record! Now what's interesting about this is how different the sites are, given that there are so few records in Sussex. There is a very old record from Seaford in 1949 and two from Brighton between 2006 and 2011 and that is it. It's a big and distinctive bug, I would expect it to come to me to verify via iRecord if it was more widespread but that hasn't happened.

Now the ones I saw in the Brecks were in a huge, hot, dry and old clearing on an abandoned airfield. The immediate vicinity was calcareous-like grassland due to the substrate put down for the runway. As this has been there since WW2, there is a great continuity to this glade. A mass of Wood Small-reed  (quite uncommon down in Sussex compared to East Anglia) was growing next to the old runway, mainly unmanaged and it was collapsing in on itself forming a very hot and dry litter layer. There were hundreds of nymphs and adults running around in this having a whale of a time.

You can read about it here on the British Bugs site.

At West Dean Woods, Mike told me they were plentiful and clearly well established there. Below is the site it was found on. A very recent and quite small clearing in fairly humid woodland. Even the recently cleared coppice coupes nearby are more like the Breckland site than this is but they lack any continuity of bare ground that even a very small glade like this can offer. It's fascinating, as these sites are so different, it makes you think why is it so scarce down here? Or are we actually just seeing the start of a colonisation event from a species that's actually not that fussy and just does well in warm sites? The impression I get is that it is genuinely scarce and whatever these two sites have in common is the answer but there doesn't seem to be much in common!

I recorded more species in 2018 than I saw in the first 32 years of my life!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 3 January 2019 20:01

I was going to do my top ten of the year but got a bit daunted by doing doing it yet again, so I thought I would do something a bit different inspired by Andy Musgrove. So, to start with here is my number one natural history highlight of 2018. Quite simply stumbling across a Large Tortoiseshell at Woods Mill on the first warm day of spring on the 15th March. Right, that's out of the way. Here is some data...

I thought I would have a look at my breakdown of records in 2018. I entered 11,568 records. This breaks down into 2752 species. This is four species more than my first attempt at my list eight years ago at age 32!!! I can't believe that I saw AT LEAST as many species in the last 12 months as I did in the first 32 years of my life. It's not like I was messing about for a lot of that, I'd worked for the RSPB for seven years and Sussex Wildlife Trust for two years at that point, as well as a further 20 years of natural history recording for fun! So what does this mean? The answer: pan-species listing. This is the impact that this approach to wildlife recording has had on my life. So why not sign up to the website and get involved?

Here is my breakdown from 2018. Note that I will have seen a lot more species that I have not yet recorded (such as quadrat and moth-trapping data that takes a lot longer to find its way into Recorder). That's 1872 invertebrates. A total of 2752 species would put me in 56th place overall and  211 would be joint 9th place for arachnids. It took me years to get to 400 beetles so I am pretty pleased with 605.

Beetles 605
Vascular plants 481
Moths 297
Bugs 283
Arachnids 211
Hymenoptera 162
Birds 144
Diptera 136
Fungi 99
Bryophytes 75
Molluscs 70
Butterflies 40
Other invertebrates 28
Orthopteroids 20
Mammals 20
Dragonflies 18
Crustaceans 16
Myriapods 11
Annelids 7
Springtails 6
Reptiles 5
Fish 5
Amphibians 4
Slime moulds 3
Lichens 3
Platyhelminth worms 2
Seaweeds 1

I am itching to get out there recording again but it wont be for a few weeks at this rate. Let's hope 2019 is an even more amazing year!

The state of pan-species listing at the end of 2018

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 2 January 2019 11:16

What a year. As I edge closer to going part time freelance, I have never been busier and add in a relapse of my slipped disc at the end of the year, I'm really looking forward to a fresh start in 2019.  I'm totally gutted that yet again I did not have time to get down to the meet up. It sounds like a really well organised event by Sally and I wish I had got down there to Cornwall. Big changes in my life are planned in the next three months to make more time for stuff like this so if I don't make it down to one this year, I am truly doomed. 

I did get a chance to go and see the pan-species lister's event of the decade, the Beluga. I wonder how many people saw this in the end? Never thought I'd get Beluga before Otter.

Anyway, first up is what is going on in the rankings. I think it only fair to put in the top 20 now rather than the top 10 as it's gone from being quite static at this end of the rankings (between 2016 & 2017 there was no movement in the top ten) to being quite a dynamic place. So apologies for all the missing figures at this stage.

2017 2018 Change
1 Jonty Denton 12483 12599 116
2 Dave Gibbs 11327 11575 248
3 Mark Telfer 7603 8239 636
4 Nicola Bacciu 7045 7305 260
5 Graeme Lyons 6840 7206 366
6 Brian Eversham 7030 7203 173
7 The late Eric Philp 6878 6878 0
8 Matt Prince 6483 6800 317
9 Richard Comont 6362 6759 397
10 Steve Lane ??? 6729 ???
11 Simon Davey 6722 6722 0
12 Tony Davis ??? 6541 ???
13 Malcolm Storey ??? 6274 ???
14 Paul Bowyer ??? 6036 ???
15 Tim Hodge ??? 5828 ???
16 John Coldwell ??? 5769 ???
17 Andrew Cunningham ??? 5725 ???
18 Stephen Plummer ??? 5611 ???
19 William Bishop ??? 5518 ???
20 Kev Rylands ??? 5450 ???

Mark has made the biggest progress in the top ten with an increase of 636 species! Followed by Richard with 397 and surprisingly me at 317. I don't really get chance to do any pan-listing away from work and freelance these days but it shows what you can rack up with a few jobs out of county. A job in Kent and a few jobs in Surrey were real highlights, as was a cracking survey in East Sussex in the Brede Valley.  But this is nothing compared to listers like Calum Urquhart and James McCulloch who are flying up the rankings!

I have moved up to fifth place literally today so it may not last very long, Simon Davey has left the top ten and Steve Lane has entered. I can't believe that out of the top 20, I have only ever met 12 of you. The 100th lister is now Nigel Jones with 1552 species. Everyone in the top 100 has now seen over 1500 species. I think that's pretty impressive!

With the top listers per taxa, there are very few new listers BUT lots of new records (in bold).

2016 2017 2018
Algae Jony Denton 288 288 290
Slime Moulds Malcolm Storey 51 51 53
Protists Jony Denton 24 24 24
Lichens Simon Davey 1228 1228 1228
Fungi Malcom Storey 1391 1391 1513
Bryophytes Paul Bowyer 480 503   549
Vascular Plants John Martin 2278 2292   2335
Sponges Richard Comont 12 12 14
Comb-jellies Richard Comont, Jerry Lanfear, James Harding-Morris, Seth Gibson, Jeff Blincow, Richard Lawrence & Calum Urquhart 3 3 2
Cnidarians Richard Comont 44 45   45
Molluscs Richard Comont 222 224   228
Bryozoans Richard Comont 27 30   30
Annelids Richard Comont 51 55   56
Platyhelminth worms Brian Eversham 18 18 18
Sea-spiders Richard Comont 4 4 4
Arachnids Jonty Denton 493 499   513
Myriapods Mark Telfer 77 81   87
Crustaceans Richard Comont 99 100   102
Springtails Richard Comont 44 45   54
3-tailed Bristletails Mark Telfer   8 8 9
Odonata Mark Telfer, Dave Gibbs 48 48 48
Orthopteroids Mark Telfer 41 41 42
Hemipteroids Jonty Denton 861 875   891
Hymenoptera Dave Gibbs 809 809 834
Coleoptera Mark Telfer 2632 2739   2766
Diptera Dave Gibbs 3146 3146 3184
Butterflies Seth Gibson, Stuart Read, Christopher Glanfield 62 62 62
Moths Tony Davis 1628 1635   1647
Remaining small  Jonty Denton 195
  195 195
Echinoderms Richard Comont 19 20   20
Tunicates Richard Comont 22 24   24
Fish Richard Comont 97 98   98
Reptiles Richard Comont 9 10   10
Amphibians Jonty Denton 13 13 13
Birds Dave Gibbs 527 527 530
Mammals Mark Telfer, Dave Gibbs 64 64 64
Other animals Jonty Denton 36 36 36
TOTAL 17051 17243 17618

The total maximum number of species has risen by 879 between the end of 2015 and the end of 2018. That's pretty impressive! Massive leaps in fungi and bryophytes by Malcom Storey and Paul Bowyer respectively. I continue to not be a top lister for anything. I think this is my new angle, the highest ranking lister not top for anything. Oh wait, I'm not even that. Nicola isn't top for anything either and she's ahead of me. That's pan-species listing though, sometimes I feel like 'too little butter spread over too much bread.' I can live with that though. I think butterflies could be my easy win if I went and got the rare breeding species.

The top ten sites are almost exactly the same but Dawlish Warren (at 3866) has knocked Sutton Fen (at 3708) off the tenth place. This part of the website still doesn't get as much use I would have hoped but I am just as much a problem as I have updated totals for Ebernoe Common but have not had chance to enter the data yet. There are 73 sites on the rankings now, up from 63 last year so I am glad that this is still growing.

There are 371 people on the Facebook group and 560 users on the website. Only 232 of these are on the rankings however. 

I wish everyone a happy new year and happy listing in 2019!

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