Citizen Science Pollinators, Molluscs and Other Invertebrates Uncategorized Weeds

2023 February Citizen Science

If there’s one thing I hope to accomplish with this blog, it’s that folks reading it will be inspired to become their own citizen scientists. Increasingly, the data collected by ordinary people, including gardeners like us is being used to inform science and policy. Here are some examples of how powerful citizen science can be.

Óðinn / CC BY-SA 2.5 CA (Wikimedia Commons photo). Image from The Historical Society of Ottawa.

Urban forest-mapping in Montreal

A Concordia project cataloging the diversity of the urban forest in a Montreal residential neighborhood is now complete, and the researchers behind it say the results highlight the importance of a diverse city tree population. The project found that private residences and institutions such as schools and places of worship usually had different tree populations from those planted by municipal authorities in city parks and roadways or sidewalks. While the city-planted trees tended to be bigger and more resilient to stressors like drought or salt, the often-smaller private trees served other functions such as providing fruit, flowers or aesthetic beauty. The full findings are published in the journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. The researchers solicited residents and institutions such as schools and churches around Concordia’s Loyola Campus in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighborhood. They asked them to measure the circumference of the trees on their property, photograph their bark and leaves and submit their data to the Montreal Tree Project website for analysis. Private residences were found to have the highest richness in species diversity while institutional lands—mostly schools and churches—were found to have the lowest. “From an ecological standpoint, having a diverse tree population leads to a more multifunctional landscape,” says Hutt-Taylor, now the project coordinator of nature-based solutions at Concordia’s Loyola Campus. “It can also provide a more resilient forest to events like climate change, changes in the environmental fabric of the city as well as to pests and disease.”

Drosera koikyennuruff. Credit: Thilo Krueger

Everyday Aussies help find missing plant species

Scientists have identified six new or rediscovered Western Australian plant species from photos taken and uploaded to the internet by members of the public, including a nature photographer from Jurien Bay, a pair of wildflower enthusiasts from Dongara and a farmer from near the Stirling Range National Park. Lead researcher, Ph.D. student Thilo Krueger from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences said the newly described species were carnivorous sundews and were identified through images shared on Facebook and to the iNaturalist website, highlighting the value of such platforms for contributing to advances in taxonomic research. The work was published in Biology.

Image from EU Observer article What Europe still needs to do to save its bees. Photo: Dearbhlaith Larkin & Felipe Guapo, Carolan Lab Research Group, Maynooth University, Ireland

Citizen science initiatives increase pollinator activity in private gardens

Have you made adjustments to your garden to make it more welcoming for pollinators? If so, you have probably made a valuable contribution, according to a new study from Lund University. The researchers evaluated the national “Operation: Save the Bees” campaign, and their results indicate that what private individuals do in their gardens really can make a positive difference. In 2018, The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation launched a campaign to save bees and other pollinators, aiming to get the public involved by creating more favorable environments in private gardens. The actions that were encouraged were to create a meadow, plant flowers or set up a bee hotel. Around 11,000 Swedes responded to the call, and now researchers from Lund University have evaluated the measures. The result show that the greatest positive effect on the number of pollinating insects was if you had a meadow with a higher number of flowering species in your garden. As for flower plantings, it was favorable if they were older and also covered a larger area. Bee hotels, in turn, were more often inhabited if they were located in flower-rich gardens, if they were older, and if the nest holes were a maximum of one centimeter in diameter. Since the researchers collected the data via peoples’ own estimates, there is a great deal of uncertainty in each individual data point, says Anna Persson, but adds that one can still be confident in the results given that so many responses were received. The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Cities.

Canada Thistle (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

RHS asks gardeners to find interesting ‘weeds’

Helena Horton writes in The Guardian about a citizen science initiative by the Royal Horticultural Society. Private gardens in the UK may be an untapped source of scientific discovery, according to the RHS’s new ecologist, because “scientists can’t just go into people’s gardens”. Instead, Gemma Golding, who started working for the charity late last year, wants gardeners to look for interesting species and submit them to the iNaturalist app for scientists to analyse. What may be viewed as a weed could be a rare plant, or growing in an unusual place where it has not been recorded before. The quid pro quo is that gardeners will get feedback on the mystery plants they find. Armed with more knowledge, they will be better able to manage problems that crop up in their gardens.

Biodiversity Climate Change

COP15 Debrief

Official photo of the Adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework 

On December 19, 2022 at 3:33 a.m. ET, the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework Agreement was adopted – a historic, once-in-a-decade moment for nature. The framework comprises 4 goals and 23 inter-connected targets to be achieved by 2030. First among the goals is the much-bruited 30×30 — effective conservation and management of at least 30% of the world’s lands, inland waters, coastal areas and oceans, with emphasis on areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and services. Other targets include:

  • Having restoration completed or underway on at least 30% of degraded terrestrial, inland waters, and coastal and marine ecosystems
  • Reducing to near zero the loss of areas of high biodiversity importance, including ecosystems of high ecological integrity
  • Cutting global food waste in half and significantly reducing over consumption and waste generation
  • Reducing by half both excess nutrients and the overall risk posed by pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals
  • Progressively phasing out or reforming by 2030 subsidies that harm biodiversity by at least $500 billion per year, while scaling up positive incentives for biodiversity’s conservation and sustainable use
  • Mobilizing by 2030 at least $200 billion per year in domestic and international biodiversity-related funding from all sources – public and private
  • Funding – raising international financial flows from developed to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and countries with economies in transition, to at least US$ 20 billion per year by 2025, and to at least US$ 30 billion per year by 2030
  • Preventing the introduction of priority invasive alien species, and reducing by at least half the introduction and establishment of other known or potential invasive alien species, and eradicating or controlling invasive alien species on islands and other priority sites
  • Requiring large and transnational companies and financial institutions to monitor, assess, and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity through their operations, supply and value chains and portfolios

Commentators are mixed as to whether these measures will be enough. However, this outcome significantly exceeds the somewhat pessimistic projections that accompanied much of the debate, so just achieving an agreement is a win. The framework also includes: mechanisms for planning, monitoring, reporting and review; capacity-building and development and technical and scientific cooperation; and resource mobilization. As gardeners, we can do our bit to help foster biodiversity in our own backyards, and avoid planting invasive species.


COP15 Biodiversity Update

Avoiding climate breakdown depends on protecting Earth’s biodiversity—can the COP15 summit deliver?:

Thousands of delegates have gathered in Montreal, Canada, for a once-in-a-decade chance to address the accelerating pace of species loss and the dangers of ecosystem breakdown. COP15 brings together parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) with a goal of negotiating this decade’s biodiversity targets and a new global framework for biodiversity protection. The summit risks being overshadowed by the recently concluded COP27 on climate change, but the issues are linked and the importance of biodiversity protection cannot be overstated. About one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. Not only are our activities driving this mass extinction, its consequences also threaten our own health and survival. COP15 needs to mark a step change in how quickly and how seriously the international community responds to catastrophic nature loss. The focus is expected to be on 30×30, a push to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by the end of this decade.

According to the Guardian UK’s reporters Daisy Dunne and Dr Giuliana Viglione, this proposal is backed by 114 countries, including Canada. But there are challenges. Some groups argue that protecting 30% of the world’s land and sea doesn’t go far enough. For example, Karl Burkart, deputy director of the NGO One Earth, likened a goal of protecting 50% to the Paris agreement’s highest ambition of limiting global warming to 1.5C. “30% to me really does feel like the 2°C and 50% is the 1.5°C,” he told a press conference held at the summit on Friday. Then there’s the question of which land to protect. Will countries chose to protect lands that are already biodiverse and ecologically significant, or designate brownfields for protection? And where does the target apply – to the whole world, or should it be specific to each country? What does land protection do to Indigenous rights? Past efforts to set aside areas for conservation have often meant dispossessing Indigenous peoples who have successfully stewarded the lands for centuries or millenia. COP15 recognizes the role that Indigenous peoples play in land stewardship, but there is no guarantee this will translate to effective protection for the rights of Indigenous peoples in each country that choses to adopt 30×30. Things become even murkier when we consider protection of the world’s oceans, 60% of which fall outside any nation’s jurisdiction. The UN’s nature body has no power over the high seas, and signatories to the treaty can only carry out actions within their own national boundaries.

It remains to be seen how all this will shake out in the final agreement.

Biodiversity Conservation

Three ways Cop15 can help biodiversity

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a speech during the opening of COP15, the two-week U.N. biodiversity summit, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada December 6, 2022. Photograph: Christinne Muschi /Reuters

Three ways Cop15 can help save a million species from extinction

By Patrick Greenfield

We have all heard the dramatic warnings: the abundance of life on Earth is rapidly declining and some scientists warn of a sixth mass extinction. But real action is yet to follow from world leaders. How do we halt the decline of nature?

The dismal record on delivery has driven disillusionment with the biodiversity Cop process, which already plays second fiddle to its sister climate convention. To make sure the eventual agreement has teeth – known as the post-2020 global biodiversity framework – negotiators are focusing on implementation alongside ambition this time. A few things are needed to make sure the agreement at Cop15 is implemented, say observers.

First: numerical targets that are quantifiable and measurable. All parts of society must know the exact percentage of land that will be restored or the precise amount of pollution governments will stop. There must be milestones we can all monitor.

Second, we must improve the quality of data we have about our planet. Humanity’s understanding of life on Earth and its ecosystems are still flawed and there are major gaps. Projects like the Land & Carbon Lab at World Resource Institute (WRI) are trying to fill in the details on peatlands and nature-based solutions. Datasets on deforestation have proved invaluable for monitoring the health of key ecosystems like the Amazon and the Congo basin rainforests. But we need more.

Finally, countries must report the biodiversity equivalent of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which are updates from governments in the UN climate process on how they are meeting their Paris targets. For nature, they are called National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs).

You can read about Canada’s biodiversity targets here.