Saturday, March 20, 2010

Garden Biodiversity

Gardens provide valuable habitats for wildlife throughout the world. They are particularly important for many species of invertebrates. The level of biodiversity found in even quite small gardens is quite stunning. In The ecology of a garden: the first fifteen years Jennifer Owen describes a detailed scientific study conducted in her small suburban garden in Leicestershire, England. Between 1972 and 1986 zoologists identified a staggering 1,782 species of animals. This number is a significant underestimate of the actual number of species as some groups of inverebrates were not sampled in detail. Incredibly, they found 533 species of one group of animals, the ichnemonid wasps. The juvenile stages of ichneumonids predominantly parasitise insect larvae. Several of these were previously unrecorded in Britain and at least one was new to Science. So keep a look out - you might discover a new species during the family barbecue! On a summers day in my own garden (1/3 of an acre in the west of Ireland) I suspect that there are more than a million individual animals present. Apart from the obvious groups such as the birds, bees and wasps (Hymenoptera), bugs (Hemiptera), flies (Diptera), beetles (Coleoptera), butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) and spiders (Arachnida) there are vast numbers of tiny, unseen, animals such as springtails living in the soil and leaf litter. I have photographed over 150 species of animals in my garden but I obviously have a long way to go. Below are a few of these:

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

Common Rough Woodlice (Porcellio scaber)

Hawthorn Shield Bug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale)

An Ichneumonid Wasp

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