Cape Clear taking part in world’s first ever Island BioBlitz

By  @CapeClearBioBtz. Image from Chuck Kruger, Cape Clear from 33,000 feet! See more about National BioBlitz program here.

We thought it would be useful to find out what an Island Bio blitz is, so we chatted with Liam Lysaght from the National BioDiversity Data Centre to find out more about it.

1 minute pitch what is an Island BioBlitz?

Island BioBlitz is a fun event where experts and members of the public join forces in a race against time to see which island can record the most species of wildlife over a 24 hour period. It is a novel way to engage people in understanding the importance of biological diversity and conservation. It is intended to celebrate what is special about Ireland’s natural heritage.

How long has it been going?

The BioBlitz concept was first introduced to Ireland by the National Biodiversity Data Centre in 2010, to celebrate International Year of Biodiversity. The competitive element where different sites compete against each other is an entirely novel approach, and is unique to Ireland.

What will be monitored? (How many species would you hope to be found?)

All species that occur on islands and the offshore could be surveyed and identified. The winning site could have recorded in excess of 1,000 different species over the 24 hours period.

How it will be monitored, are there any new good tools / gear / equipment to help do this?

Each island will assemble teams of experts to survey for as many taxonomic groups as possible. These experts will use the most up to data survey techniques for their area of expertise. What is unique about this BioBlitz is that the data capture and digitization will be all entirely on-line. The Data Centre has developed a mobile phone app which allows recorders to submit records directly from the field to a bespoke on-line BioBlitz application in real time, so progress with recording on all five sites can be followed live on the internet. This system will only be activated on the  website a few days before the event.

Won’t the different islands have different types / distributions of flora and fauna?

Yes, not only will the island differ in terms of environmental conditions, even within island there will be significant variation. There is also the variation in terms of latitude. One of the interesting things about BioBlitz as the recording will be done at the same time of the year, under (generally) similar conditions, studying the variation between islands in terms of what species are found will be fascinating. It could provide very valuable insights into understanding better the ecology of our offshore islands.

How you hope to use the data? How has the data from previous years helped?

At a general level, all data is used to build the knowledge base on what biodiversity we have in Ireland. The public participation nature of BioBlitz will help raise awareness of the diversity that exists around us among people who might not otherwise be very interested. After the event the information/data will be available for the island communities to use, in whatever way they want. It could be a very valuable resource to help promote the heritage value of the islands.

With the evolution of more sophisticated data analysis programs has this had any benefits for your work?

This is a rapidly developing area. In short, it means that with advanced analytical tools, a great deal more inferences can be made from incomplete data, and we can have greater confidence when using quantitative data. Adoption of strategic sampling and ecological modelling is leading to huge survey efficiencies – this is of particular importance for engaging with citizen scientists in general biodiversity surveying.

What trends have been discovered? Anything unexpected?

Based on international criteria, for the groups of organisms that have been assessed, over 20% of species in Ireland are threatened with extinction. We also estimate that there are at least 7,000 more species that are yet to be discovered and described for Ireland. We have produced a short video to communication the value of biodiversity.

How can people get more involved?

For the Island BioBlitz, there will be a Base Camp established on each of the islands that will serve as the Hub for all the recording and other activities. People are encourage just to show up at the Base Camps on the 11-12 June to register, and to participate in the programme of events

Anything we should have asked / you’d like to add?

An Island BioBlitz have never been tried anywhere else, so this is really an innovative event. All the partners, including the local island partners, and the more than 100 expert surveyors will give of their time and expertise freely, and the programme of events are open to all. This makes BioBlitz the largest voluntary wildlife event in Ireland. It is a real celebration of wildlife and intended to present wildlife in a positive light.

What is the best way to learn more about it? Contact details?

Full details of the event and contact details can be found here . There will be an active twitter and facebook page to promote the activities too.


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