CLM Spring issue 2018 - Page 43

Living with mammals: an urban study
40 years and that 35% had declined strongly (i.e.
the population had at least halved over the period
monitored or would do so at the current rate over
25 years).
The significance to wildlife of domestic gardens
and brownfield sites has received considerable
attention (Gaston et al. 2007; Gibson 1998; Head
2011; Macadam & Bairner 2012; Owen 2010;
Woodward et al. 2003), and the potential of
volunteer-based surveys to monitor this wildlife
has been demonstrated (Toms & Newson 2006),
but few surveys have recorded mammal species in
the built environment and few data on population
trends exist.
Citizen science and wild mammals
Identifying such trends in monitoring projects is
necessary in order to assess the success or otherwise
of conservation efforts and to inform conservation
decisions (Danielsen et al. 2005), but professional
monitoring is often costly and, as such, unlikely
to be sustained over time. Moreover, it can fail
to engage stakeholders, which, in urban areas,
include the many people who live or work there.
Natural-history recording in Britain has a long
history, and large-scale, public surveys date back
to those organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in the first half of the last century,
collecting records of paper-tearing and pecking
of foil milkbottle-tops by birds. More recently, the
potential for ‘citizen science’ has become apparent
with the growth of the internet and mobile devices
with GPS, large displays, cameras and the ability to
run specialised applications (Jones 2013).
The survey described here started before such
‘apps’ were commonplace, but the advantages
of volunteer-based, citizen-science monitoring
extend beyond its particular format, not least that
it is generally cost-effective. Taking the National
Bat Monitoring Programme as a case study,
Battersby (2005) estimated the annual running
cost to be less than a fifth of what it would have
cost had a similar level of data collection been
carried out by professional surveyors. The built
environment is a patchwork of separately owned
and managed sites, which presents challenges for
professional surveys. Residential areas, however,
are naturally suited to citizen-science approaches.
Mammals are usually discreet neighbours.
Occasionally, activities such as howling, digging
or gnawing can raise the hackles of some human
residents, but, for the most part, mammals are
unobtrusive (typically active at twilight or at night)
and only infrequently encountered by people.
Surveys therefore require a degree of commitment; moreover, to identify how populations are
changing, repeated surveys over time are necessary,
A Fox foraging in a London park at night. Jamie Hall/FLPA
February 2016 British Wildlife 189
BWM27_3 09 mammal survey.indd 189
29/01/2016 13:56


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