3,000 Species: Are we there yet?
When the Whistler Biodiversity Project began in late 2004, fewer than 600 species were publicly documented in Whistler. The bird list was by far the biggest and most complete, thanks to many years of studies by dedicated birders with the Whistler Naturalists. We also had good lists for mammals and fish, but very incomplete information for almost all other species groups.
It’s a very different story now. As we collate all the sightings from 2011, with hundreds of additions (this year mainly fungus, spiders, and moths), there’s a distinct possibility we will break the 3,000 species milestone.
What does a list of 3,000 species mean? Well, it first means that Whistler has been incredibly lucky to host tens of talented scientists, representing a huge range of specialties. A great deal of the data, more than 1,000 species, has come from BioBlitz and Fungus Among Us events which are totally dependent on visiting and local scientists who volunteer their time. At least 5,000 volunteer hours have been clocked by these fantastic folks which represents, very conservatively, over $200,000 worth of effort.
The 3,000 milestone is also important because it means we finally have good lists for most species groups, including vascular plants (both native and introduced), mosses, lichens, fungi, dragonflies and damselflies, butterflies, plus amphibians and reptiles. Such lists are critical tools for biodiversity conservation. Now that we know which species are here (or at least most of them), we can make better decisions on which species and habitats are most at risk.
Among those 3,000 or so species, we have also documented:
- more than 20 species-at-risk not previously known in the Whistler area,
- a new mammal for Whistler (shrew mole)
- the first records in 70 years for Townsend’s chipmunk and Keen’s Myotis, a red-listed bat.
- the range and status of three listed amphibians: tailed frogs, western toads, and red-legged frogs.
There’s still lots to do. For example, we still don’t know enough about the habitat needs and population status of, for example, our threatened bats and amphibians. We don’t know enough about many of the other species-at-risk, but can at least start to develop conservation strategies for each. We also have other species groups which have yet to be fully explored, especially invertebrates.
It’s going to be fun to break through the 3,000 species milestone and we’ll report here when it happens. In the meantime, we’re planning for another busy season for 2012. Watch here for updates, including a new mapping page to make it easier to enter your sightings and review other sightings. Hope to see you back here soon!