Citizen scientists are being asked to chart UK mammal activity so North East researchers can better understand how animals are coping with ecological challenges such as climate change.
The MammalWeb network was founded by scientists at Durham University in 2013 to collect camera trap images of the UK’s mammals to build a picture of their habits and behaviours.
MammalWeb’s database has grown from originally being North East England focused to gathering data from more than 2,500 sites across the UK and beyond.
They say that the need for large scale wildlife monitoring is increasingly important as wildlife responds to climate change and other causes of global biodiversity loss strongly linked to human activities.
Professor Phil Stephens, a co-founder of MammalWeb, in the department of biosciences at Durham University, said: “Now, more than ever, it’s vitally important that we build a comprehensive picture of the UK’s mammal populations.
“We need to build a greater understanding of how climate change and events such as the droughts we experienced in the UK this summer will impact upon mammal distribution and behaviour.
“Through camera trap technology we can track and monitor mammals’ habits and better understand what policies or interventions we might need to introduce to support these wonderful creatures, which include species of cultural, ecological and economic significance.”
In the UK, contributors’ camera traps have captured 440,000 classified image sequences and videos, of which more than 180,000 are mammal detections.
Rare footage in the North East in recent years has included both North and South American members of the raccoon family, highly adaptable animals with the potential to cause trouble for native wildlife.
Across the country, camera traps have also captured other originally non-native UK species such as muntjac deer, fallow deer, grey squirrels, brown hares and rabbits.
Native UK species such as red squirrels, badgers, otters, foxes, stoats, wild boar and pine marten have also been caught on film.
Research overview lead author and MammalWeb co-founder Dr Pen-Yuan Hsing (currently at the University of Bristol) said: “Eighty-one percent of respondents in a recent YouGov poll expressed a need for urgent action on protecting our natural environment, and we know there are hundreds if not thousands of people and organisations out there who are capturing data on mammals using camera traps.
“Bringing together this information in one place helps us to build a bigger, more coherent dataset charting the UK’s mammal populations and activities.
“By getting involved, people can really make a difference to understanding and protecting the future of these amazing animals, which are integral to the biodiversity that we all intimately depend on.”
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