Recording scheme news

Flies

Welcome to the latest addition to the list of national recording schemes: the Sarcophagidae Recording Scheme has now been launched, led by Daniel Whitmore, Charles Griffiths and Nigel Jones. This family of flies includes 64 species of “fleshfly”, so named because some of the species have larvae that develop in carrion. Others are parasitoids, and there are a wide range of behaviours and life histories across the family. A draft identification key is available from the membership area of the Dipterists Forum website.

Another family of flies has now been 'promoted' to a full recording scheme, having previously been a study group: the Heleomyzid Recording Scheme, covering the spiny-winged flies in family Heleomyzidae. This family also includes some carrion feeders, as well as species associated with decaying vegetable matter and seaweed etc., and a draft key is available from scheme organiser Ian Andrews.

The Soldierflies and Allies Recording Scheme ran its "Bee-fly Watch" project for the fifth year in 2020, and the number of records contributed this year is the highest ever, no doubt due to a combination of more people finding out about the scheme, the good weather, and people with gardens paying closer attention to the visiting insects during the lockdown period. The Dark-edged Bee-fly has been recorded throughout lowland areas of Britain again, and the more restricted Dotted Bee-fly continues to expand its range to the north and east, with new county records including an astonishing one from north Derbyshire, some 100km north of any previous record. The recording scheme has also been busy producing a set of photographic identification guides.

New identification 'crib sheets' for craneflies are available from the Cranefly Recording Scheme, along with links to the draft identification keys.

The latest updates to the Diptera Checklist for Britain and Ireland have been published.

A page from the new identification guides for soldierflies and allies

Beetles

BRC maintains the UK Beetle Recording website, which provides a home for The Coleopterist journal. Recently a number of back issues of the journal, and its predecessor The Coleopterists Newsletter, have been made available as PDFs to download. In addition, a searchable contents page and cumulative index to the journal have been brought up-to-date. The journals contain lots of material of importance for beetle recording, often including identification guides and news of newly found species.

Mark Gurney continues to add to his brilliant series of identification guides for the Weevil Recording Scheme, and the majority of the UK species are now covered.

In early May the UK Ladybird Survey organised a well-received webinar on identifying and recording ladybirds. A webinar recording and supporting materials are available.

Crustaceans

Lee Knight runs the Hypogean Crustacea Recording Scheme, focusing on the suite of species that lives in caves and rock crevices ("hypogean" means "living under the earth's surface"). BRC has recently refreshed the website for the scheme, which contains information about these enigmatic underground creatures, and includes a link to view the scheme’s data.

Centipedes, millipedes and woodlice

You can now join the British Myriapod and Isopod Group online, by signing up to the free newsletter mailing list.

Vascular Plants

The National Plant Monitoring Scheme held a successful TweetMeet just before lockdown impacted survey plans for 2020 but the programme of training support for registered volunteers has had to be moved online, with a range of weekly training materials, virtual meetings and themed presentations available for download. View the online training programme here.

The Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland launched a Garden Wildflower Hunt, encouraging locked-down plant-lovers to use a free app and record wild plants in their gardens and on their balconies. Resources available to help recorders at all skill levels include plant identification crib sheets, an impartial review of several plant ID apps currently available, and a new webpage explaining the meaning of frequently misunderstood terms terms such as ‘alien’, ‘native, and ‘wild’. Results are displayed on an interactive map, along with a list of the Top Twenty most frequently recorded plants so far. In the first seven weeks of the project, more than 160,000 records were submitted of 1,395 species, i.e. approximately one-third of the British and Irish flora has been recorded in people’s gardens. The Garden Wildflower Hunt is ongoing and more detailed analysis of the data will be published later this summer on the BSBI website.

Dandelion, Taraxacum stenoglossum - photo by Mark Lynes

A new Dandelion page was also set up to help recorders tackle the c250 species known in Britain and Ireland and for those approaching the identification of hawkweeds – arguably the most difficult of our  plant genera – a new BSBI Handbook, Hawkweeds of south-east England, has been published. An Activities 2020 page points botanical recorders towards a range of other activities they can enjoy from their own home or garden.

Plantlife’s ‘Every Flower Counts’ project encourages recorders to count the flowers in their lawn and find out how many bees it can support. The project ends on 31st May and will report on the Top Ten lawn flowers in Britain.

Recent papers using recording scheme data

  • Outhwaite, C.L., Gregory, R.D., Chandler, R.E. et al. 2020. Complex long-term biodiversity change among invertebrates, bryophytes and lichens. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 384–392. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1111-z

Analysis of long-term trends across a wide range of species groups: “Here, we present and analyse trends in the UK distributions of over 5,000 species of invertebrates, bryophytes and lichens, measured as changes in occupancy. Our results reveal substantial variation in the magnitude, direction and timing of changes over the last 45 years.”

  • Terry, JCD, Roy, HE, August, TA. 2020. Thinking like a naturalist: Enhancing computer vision of citizen science images by harnessing contextual data. Methods Ecol Evol. 11: 303– 315. https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.13335

Uses data from the UK Ladybird Survey to investigate the potential for adding contextual information such as date and location to machine learning processes for image recognition: “Metadata is a key tool for human naturalists. We show it can also be harnessed by computer vision systems. Contextualization offers considerable extra information, particularly for challenging species, even within small and relatively homogeneous areas such as the British Isles.”

  • Michael J.O. Pocock, Mark W. Logie, Nick J.B. Isaac, Charlotte L. Outhwaite, Tom August. 2019. Rapid assessment of the suitability of multi-species citizen science datasets for occupancy trend analysis. bioRxiv 813626 (pre-print). https://doi.org/10.1101/813626

Analysis of what ‘rules of thumb’ can be applied to species datasets to assess their suitability for occupnacy modelling at different spatial scales: “Although ... citizen science data are opportunistic and unstructured, occupancy analysis can be used to quantify trends in distribution. However, occupancy analysis of unstructured data can be resource-intensive and requires substantial expertise. It is valuable to have simple ‘rules of thumb’ to efficiently assess the suitability of a dataset for occupancy analysis prior to analysis.”

  • Pescott, O.L., Humphrey, T.A., Stroh, P.A., and Walker, K.J. 2019. Temporal changes in distributions and the species atlas: How can British and Irish plant data shoulder the inferential burden? British & Irish Botany 1(4): 250-282. https://doi.org/10.33928/bib.2019.01.250

A review of various approaches to statistical modelling of species data as applied to vascular plants. See the separate news item for more information.

This article was published in the BRC Newsletter June 2020.

A fleshfly, Sarcophaga sp.
A fleshfly, Sarcophaga sp.
Picture: Sarcophagidae Recording Scheme