…blog by Louis Harrington-Edmans, Buglife Space4Nature Conservation Officer
Space4Nature: harnessing people and satellites to save Surrey’s bugs.
Surrey is perhaps the UK’s most biodiverse land-locked county – not least due to its wealth of important invertebrate habitats and species. The county encompasses some of Britain’s best remaining lowland heath, chalk downland, mires and continuous woodland. Despite this, many of Surrey’s rare insect species are under threat. Surrey’s 2017 State of Nature Report revealed that 13% of Surrey’s assessed invertebrates had become locally extinct in the three decades prior, with a further 21% under threat. Buglife and Space4Nature are here to change that.
With 97% of flower-rich grasslands lost in England since the 1930s, many of our rarest invertebrates find themselves marooned on remnant islands of remaining habitat. They are trapped within a sea of human-dominated urban and agricultural landscapes, devoid of insect-friendly food and refuge. This “habitat fragmentation” is a leading driver behind our insects’ tragic declines. It’s essential to reconnect these habitat islands to allow our rarest insects to find new habitats; reproduce with other populations; return after wildfires and move in response to a changing climate. How do we do this? Buglife’s B-lines are the solution!
B-Lines is the world’s largest and most joined-up habitat connectivity project. Thousands of miles of ‘insect pathways’ aim to reconnect and enhance the UK’s best remaining wildflower-rich habitats, freeing our insects to once again roam these islands they call home. Mapped using expert and local knowledge, prioritising invertebrate conservation work within the B-Line allows us to connect the UK with five-times greater efficiency over a non-targeted approach. Anyone can create and plot invertebrate habitat creation efforts on Buglife’s interactive B-Lines map, no matter how big or small. But now, thanks to funding by the People’s Postcode Lottery, Buglife is partnering with Surrey Wildlife Trust, The University of Surrey and Painshill Park on the Space4Nature project. With a key part of the Space4Nature project, the delivery of targeted habitat restoration and creation alongside local landowners, helping to connect Surrey’s B-Lines.
Our B-Lines habitat creation will provide Space4Nature’s satellite habitat-mapping technology with ongoing data and conservation expertise to inform and calibrate the technology. This ground-breaking effort to provide accurate and automated habitat mapping will represent a potential game changer for environmental conservation. As the project evolves, we hope the cutting-edge earth observation technology we develop will be able to highlight the greatest opportunities for B-Lines to boost habitat connectivity. People power will be essential to achieving our goals, and we’ll be developing a well-trained volunteer network, to ‘ground truth’ (or use old-fashioned human observation to closely investigate) the habitats and the invertebrate populations identified by our technology. Getting landowners and locals excited about pollinators will be essential to build the B-Line. So watch this space as we’ll be sharing our progress and telling you more about how you can get involved along the way!
To find out more about Space4Nature please visit our Project Page