National Citizen Science Surveys
This page lists several citizen science projects particularly relevant to gardeners. These projects are really important in understanding the rapidly changing ecosystems around us. Many of the changes being monitored, such as blossom and pollinator timing, may have profound effects on food supplies. Other projects are monitoring biodiversity.
Your contribution to these projects is significant.
To report non-native species, please see the Local Non-Native Species Survey page.
The UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS)
Pollinating insects play a vital role in our environment, ensuring that many of our crops and wild plants are able to set seed and produce fruit. We need to know how pollinator populations are changing, and with your help we are gathering data on a wide range of flower-visiting insects.
There are two types of activities:
You can spend ten minutes counting pollinators to contribute a Flower-Insect Timed Count (FIT Count).
Or adopt a 1 km square and help us carry out a systematic survey of insects and flowers.
See the PoMS website for more information.
These separate resources can help with identifying pollinator species:
Avon Wildlife Trust hold regular free online bee identification sessions.
A new citizen science initiative commencing Spring 2022
Fruit trees are highly dependent on insect pollination to produce fruit, and climate change is impacting both the timing of fruit tree flowering and pollinator flight, which could reduce pollination and fruit production. Reading University need your help to understand how fruit trees are changing flowering dates across the UK, and with our help are gathering data on four common fruits, Apple, Pear, Plum (including Damson and Greengage), and Cherry.
April to May, when cowslips are flowering.
There are two forms of cowslip (Primula veris) which have different flower structures. One is the "S-form" where the male parts (the stamen) are longer and easy to spot. In the other "L-form" the female part (the stigma) is longer and visible. This is an adaption to avoid self-fertilization.
In healthy cowslip populations, there are equal numbers of both forms of flower. However, this ratio becomes imbalanced when the cowslip population declines. Plantlife is trying to find the ratio of these two forms to understand more about the quality of our grasslands.
S-Form cowslip flower
L-Form cowslip flower
Garden Wildlife Health
The is a citizen science project run collaboratively by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Froglife and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) which aims to monitor the health of, and identify disease threats to, British wildlife.
The project is focussed on garden birds, amphibians, reptiles and hedgehogs, and relies on the public submitting reports of sick or dead wildlife.
Plant Alert is a citizen science project for gardeners.
Invasive non-native plants are causing major problems for native biodiversity, ecosystems, infrastructure, the built environment and human health. The majority of invasive plants have been initially introduced as ornamental garden plants and then spread from gardens into the wider environment. To prevent more species becoming invasive, gardeners can contribute by reporting early signs of invasiveness of ornamental plants in gardens.
Plant scientists are monitoring the spread of the pathogenic plant bacterium Xylella fastidiosa very closely. At the moment it has not been found in the UK, but it is devastating olive groves and other plants in southern Europe, where it arrived in 2013.
According to a 2019 BBC article if it's found in the UK, all host plants within 100m would need to be destroyed and there would be immediate movement restrictions on some plants within a 5km radius for up to five years.
Spittlebugs (froghoppers and leafhoppers) are sap sucking insects that are an important vector of the bacterium and so understanding more about spittlebugs will be important should Xylella fastidiosa reach the UK.
The John Innes Centre in Norwich, together with 12 other organisations including the RHS are researching Xylella and spittlebugs. They are asking gardeners to record sightings of spittlebugs.
See spittlebugsurvey.co.uk for more about identifying the insects and how to submit a sighting.
Spittlebugs are normally seen between April and June.
Only record species where it is entirely safe and legal to do so. Do not take personal risks or trespass on private land for the sake of these surveys. The Upper Nar Gardeners group does not accept any liability or responsibility for the wellbeing of surveyors.
If there are any other citizen science projects that you think should be added to this page, or you spot any errors please contact Jeff.