24/7 Biodiversity Monitoring

Last week when Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) was introduced it was apposite for Epi-Agri to host a meeting at Hemsworth Farm, Dorset to share the findings of the 24/7 Biodiversity Monitoring project that was hosted at Hemsworth Farms.  The Agri-Epi project has been exploring the benefits of 3 new technologies used to monitor biodiversity.   

Hemsworth is an ideal location to assess the 3 approaches as there has been comprehensive monitoring undertaken by and ecologist from Dorset Wildlife Trust over the past 5 years, making visual and aural observations twice a month from March to October.  Having this comprehensive baseline data for the farm meant that the 3 technologies being assesses could be verified against high quality data.  The three technologies are Chirrup, Pollenize, with their product Floradex and Agrisound.

Chirrup and Agrisound are remote sensing products that use AI to identify birds in the case of Chirrup and bees with Agrisound.  Their key advantage is they have no labour (or little) requirement once installed.  Whilst both showed success in identifying species the key challenge is to identify abundance of species.  Chirrup can tell that a Corn Bunting is singing but cannot tell if it is hearing the same individual over and over or many individuals.  Agrisound can assess abundance but is limited in teh number of species it can identify, only the honey bee and the bumble bee, 2 of the 97 species of bee in the UK.

Floradex uses software to geolocate and record species on the farm but does require an operator to walk the farm, photograph and identify species (although the app helps with identification) and so still has a significant labour requirement to provide results.

It was clear that the trained ecologist provided the highest quality results but is the most expensive option.

The full report can be read here.

A fantastic picture of the biodiversity at Hemsworth Farms was painted by ecologist, Hamish Murray.  Hearing a multi-species ley buzzing one afternoon after he'd completed his formal survey he did a quick extra transect across the field.  From this quick assessment he extrapolated over 72,000 bees and 10,000s of butterflies including BAP species.  He was clearly excited and commented "It's a commercial farm  that is full of bees".

Learnings from the meeting
  • Flora and fauna have more static populations whereas invertebrate populations are far more dynamic
  • Monitor from March to October on the same transects across the farm
  • Weather is important in invertebrate behaviour
  • New species are found each year
  • When surveying invertebrates the survey needs to be active at times as they can be tricky to see.  Use sweep nets and look under things!
Hemsworth Results 2023
Total species 1787
Mammals 18
Other Insects 135
Birds 109
Other Invertebrates 135
Plants 310
Insects 1215
New Species 300

It's not just the number of species but the abundance and importance too.  39 are BAP species, 80 are Nationally Scarce or Nationally Rare invertebrates, 37 birds are of Conservation Concern and 38 are classified as Dorset Notable Plants.  Hamish from Dorset Wildlife Trust uses a an adapted DAFOR scale to measure abundance and recorded and mentioned above commented on abundance for species at Hemsworth commenting at the meeting, "the figures were those a nature reserve would be proud of".