The most important outcome of last week’s BioBlitz was, no doubt, the great interaction among all the participants: experts, volunteers and general public. We know there were a lot of opportunities to learn and be amazed about the biodiversity that surround us.
However, the particular piece of information that condenses the result of a BioBlitz is, of course, the final species tally. All the experts did a great job exploring the area and identifying specimens, and we are very proud to report that 1181 different species could be spotted during the event.
For many people, perhaps the first surprise is that the organisms that we find more familiar (vertebrates) typically show a modest number. For example, up to 6 different species of fish were captured and identified in the Fenton and Willimantic rivers, plus 14 amphibians and 6 reptiles. The mammal team, that even prepared traps for small rodents and monitored the presence of bats, identified 24 species, and finally, the birdwatchers were quite busy and spotted 80 different birds.
Most of the animal species described by biologists are insects, so, it is not surprising that their figure in the BioBlitz is higher, although they are often really tough to ID to the species level. We had different groups of entomologists working on different insect lineages: Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), Coleoptera (beetles), Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) and even ants. They sampled the campus area with nets or setting up light traps and came up with 222 species! Other participants working in non-insects invertebrates (spiders, mollusks,…) reported 89 by the end of the event.
We had a large and active mycological community participating in the BioBlitz. They explored comprehensively different areas around campus (such as the Moss Sanctuary or the riverine of the Fenton River) and collected all kinds of fungi: mushrooms, lichens and even microscopic fungi that cause diseases in plants. Their final species count was quite high: 147.
We have insisted in the past: no matter how small species are, they all count in a BioBlitz. Some of our experts work on microscopic organisms, such as algae. During the event they sampled water from ponds around campus and screened these tiny worlds that exist in a single drop of water looking for minute creatures adding 91 species to the tally. Finally, the tireless botanists’ contribution after 24 hours exploring Storrs campus was a formidable 502 species (including mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants).
But we are not done yet! Some days before the BioBlitz, a small microbiome environmental analysis was done to some soil and roots samples in the Hillside Environmental Education Park. The preliminary results showed that more than 7,000 species of bacteria and other prokaryotes were present in those samples. This was a great reminder to help us put into perspective the biodiversity we see: no matter how large the final tally of a BioBlitz is (limited to a 24-hour period), the actual figure of living organisms that surround us is just inconceivably huge.
Download the list of organisms found: UConn BioBlitz Taxa