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The District Council recently published their Biodiversity Audit. Abbreviated, the introduction states that Biodiversity refers to the huge range of species and their habitats. Strictly speaking, (and according to the Shorter Oxford), biological diversity refers only to plants and animals though of course habitat is an extremely important factor. Part 2 reviews species of conservation concern and at least 200 species are listed.
It seemed to me that a true biodiversity audit should encompass all the known species from a given area. It is only with such a broad brush that valuable phenological investigations can be undertaken by other than specialists. Phenology is the science of comparing population fluctuations over long periods of time and can provide valuable insights into pollution levels, habitat loss, biological invasions and climate change. In fact, most of our amateur natural history observations are concerned ultimately with the well-being of our favourite group of organisms - are they on the increase, declining or whatever.
However, any long term and ongoing detective work in this field needs a baseline from which to start. The RDC audit does not provide and was never intended to provide such a baseline since it is only concerned with rarities and habitat conservation. My aim was to gather together all the data which originated from within the area covered by the Ryedale Natural History Society, very roughly a rectangle 35km × 25km. The initial impetus came from the late Willis Bramley’s book and all the relevant fungus data for this area was extracted. A few years earlier the late Clifford Smith, YNU spider recorder, had kindly lent me his entire card index so I could extract local data.
This was a start but I needed access to data on many more different groups. To this end, earlier this year I began contacting the county naturalists in all the different specialist areas. The response was fantastic and more than I could have hoped for. I also extracted data from the YWT Reserves and other bodies such as English Nature and the Invertebrate Site Register provided valuable records.
One problem with the public domain is that much of the information extracted is confidential particularly from the County Trust and English Nature and similar bodies. To overcome this problem, all the sites and surveyors are coded and the codes which accompany the species names can now safely be made public. The explanations of the codes are on a separate disc which successive secretaries will only make available to Society Recorders. The only bio-organisms which I have not dealt with are the vertebrates.
The following is a brief summary of the results, though further bee and wasp data is promised from Dr. Mike Archer and Lepidoptera from Phillip Winter. A more detailed synopsis is available on request.
Over 15,000 records examined. 6,319 different species entered.
The data is now on the web at: