18/11/2009
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Reserves not just for birds, says new report

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For the first time the RSPB's annual report on its 200 reserves across the UK has collated records of all species together — and come up with some surprising results. Of the 13,400 species recorded on our reserves, more than half are insects, almost a quarter are fungi and 12% are plants. RSPB reserves cover 140,000 hectares across the UK — just 0.6% of the area of Britain — yet this land features 68% of Britain's native plant species, 78% of its spiders, and all of its resident reptiles and dragonflies.


Fungal growth on a pine trunk, Corrimony RSPB (Photo: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com))

Gwyn Williams, Head of Reserves at the RSPB, said: "This fascinating survey shows the wide variety of wildlife that we have on our reserves. We choose the land we buy very carefully and once we have created a reserve a lot of hard work from staff and volunteers goes into creating habitats for everything from fungi and mosses to Water Voles and Sand Lizards. Many people still think our reserves are just there for birdwatchers but the reality is very different. With such a large area of diverse habitats from reedbeds and heathland to woodland and coastal sites, we have an obligation to look after all kinds of wildlife, not just birds. And as any conservationist will tell you, no living thing exists in isolation — maintaining a healthy ecosystem brings benefits for all the species in it."

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Lots of work has taken place looking at fungi on RSPB reserves. Although the report shows fungi make up a quarter of species recorded on our reserves, many areas have yet to be intensively surveyed so the true figure may well be even higher, says RSPB ecologist Mark Gurney.


Oak Eggar, Lasiocampa quercus, Haweswater RSPB (Photo: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com))

"The RSPB's woodland reserves are great places to go to discover fascinating fungi, and now is the perfect time of year to do it," he said. "Our reserves at Abernethy in Inverness-shire and Tudeley Woods in Kent are nationally important sites for the rare tooth fungi. Surveys there have already revealed two species new to Britain and experts believe another species may prove to be entirely new to science. And while our reserve at Minsmere in Suffolk is a mecca for birdwatchers, mycologists have found over 1,500 species of fungi there, including the endangered Bearded Tooth Fungus. We are grateful to all the dedicated enthusiasts like these, who have helped us record wildlife on our reserves."

The 3,136 recorded fungus species on RSPB reserves are only 21% of the total number of known UK fungi. However our reserves do have 75% of Britain's vascular plant species (1,137), 77% of grasshopper and cricket species (23), 78% of spider species (505) and 93% of land mammal species (41). All the native British species of cockroaches (3), earwigs (4), dragonflies (45), lampreys and hagfish (3), and terrestrial reptiles (6) can be found on RSPB reserves.

Table of species recorded on RSPB reserves.

Group% of total species recorded on RSPB reservesNo. of species on RSPB reservesNo. of British species% of British species on RSPB reserves
Insects5573332400031
Fungi and lichens2331361500021
Vascular plants91140152775
Spiders and other arachnids453468079
Mosses and liverworts4520106149
Birds338058066
Molluscs113540034
Other invertebrates188
Whales, dolphins, fish, and other marine vertebrates<>6616440
Land mammals<>4144 93
Stoneworts<>153444
Land reptiles<>66 100
Amphibians<1>66100
Total10013,400
Written by: RSPB