Westgate Parks Invertebrate Resource

A rove of coleopterists

A rove of coleopterists

Objectives

To create a voucher specimen collection and an electronic data archive for the study of invertebrates within Westgate Parks, with special reference to:

  1. Establishing baseline data on the invertebrates living in the parks area
  1. Monitoring changes over time in the diversity of invertebrates found in the parks
  1. Creating tools for the identification of invertebrates found in the parks
  1. Engaging with school, college and university students, naturalists and volunteers, in developing sampling and identification programmes, and undertaking original observations based on parks invertebrates

Potentially many hundreds of species of invertebrates, even thousands, await discovery in the Westgate Parks ecosystems – even though all of these systems are anthropogenic and, for the most part, highly disturbed. In light of this, although set up with potential to cater for any taxonomic group or ecosystem found within Westgate Parks, WPIR will focus initially on just two taxonomic groups and two ecosystems: the Diptera (true flies) that develop as larvae in the Great Stour within and upstream of the parks area, and the Coleoptera (beetles) of Bingley Island. The justification is that the likely most-diverse group to be found in the river will be the Chironomidae (“non-biting midges”), well known and widely employed as indicators for water quality in fresh-water ecosystems, including lakes, streams and rivers, while the beetles are arguably the best group for practical assessment of the biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems.

Getting the facts

Getting the facts

The WPIR collections

Diptera

Based initially on Environment Agency river bed samples from the stretch of the Great Stour in Westgate Gardens (commencing with their 2011 samples, already secured; all earlier samples have been discarded), the collection will be set up and stored in the Biology Laboratory of the Department of Geographical and Life Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University (http://www.canterbury.ac.uk/social-applied-sciences/geographical-and-life-sciences/), where the contact will be Dr David Ponsonby (Canterbury Christ Church University, North Holmes Rd, Canterbury CT1 1QU). The Honorary Curator of the collection, for the first five years (reappointment or replacement thereafter) is Dr R.I. Vane-Wright, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at CCCU Geographical and Life Sciences.

Alex getting down to it

Alex getting down to it

The initial goal for the Diptera collection will be preservation of EA samples, once the Agency has no further use for them (usually within one year of collection). After that it will be part of the Curator’s responsibility to get all Diptera samples identified, as far as possible, to species. Once identification to species has been achieved, small sub-samples (voucher specimens) will be sent to the Natural History Museum in London, for permanent storage as part of the National Collection of Insects. Additional samples made as a result of further monitoring initiatives and/or research projects will be added to the collections in a similar way.

Coleoptera

A project on the Coleoptera (beetles) found on Bingley Island offers great scope for assessing ecosystem quality and biodiversity. The project has already been started by a small team of Natural History Museum staff and volunteers who visited Bingley Island three times during 2012, to carry out a pilot survey. A paper reporting the preliminary results has now been published in the Entomologist’s Gazette (to download pdf please click here: Greenslade et al Bingley Island beetles 2013; courtesy Ian Johnson, Pemberley Books), and the voucher collection created has been placed at CCCU. Annual beetle surveys will now be undertaken on Bingley, starting 2014, with voucher specimens for additional or more unusual records being added to the collection. In this way the collection will grow as a baseline resource for establishing and monitoring the diversity of Coleoptera to be found on the island, and any changes though time (for example, the winter flooding of 2013–2014 is likely to have had an impact). The data and expertise generated are also expected to be useful for interpreting beetle remains found in Westgate Parks archaeological digs.

Rationale for the projects

A fundamental environmental aspiration of the Westgate Parks project is to bring about improvements to the habitat connectivity of the river, notably as it passes through the city. The Chironomidae have excellent potential for helping track changes, and hopefully improvements, in water quality and biodiversity of the river, over years and, hopefully, decades to come. For the terrestrial riverside habitats, the Coleoptera offer a similar potential. Thus, rather than spread limited time and financial resources thinly over all groups and ecosystems from the start, the proposal is to specialise from the outset in terms of detailed work, while at the same time creating a framework such that, if other volunteers and resources can be found and committed in future, the WPIR can grow and extend naturally to accommodate them.

Digital resources

Alongside the specimen collection, a collection of digital resources comprising databases, documents and papers will be built up.

Canterbury City Council HLF