Introduction to the Bristol Wildlife Index

9th May 2023

One of the key actions from the One City Ecological Emergency Strategy is to set up a Bristol Wildlife Index to establish a baseline and track change towards 2030 and beyond. Understanding long-term trends of wildlife abundance is key to understanding our impact on biodiversity.  

In May 2023, The Natural History Consortium spoke to Dr Chris Clements, Senior lecturer at Bristol University’s Life Sciences department, to find out more about the Bristol Wildlife Index, and how we can help contribute to the study of wildlife trends. 

What is the Bristol Wildlife Index?

The Bristol Wildlife Index is a project of Bristol University, which aims to understand how biodiversity is changing in Bristol. There are many long-term datasets that have been recorded over the last 5-20 years, and the Wildlife Index is a way of trying to combine these together to get a general overview of how biodiversity is doing in the Bristol area.

The Bristol Wildlife Index intends to show how biodiversity is changing across all species locally, but will also be looking at specific sets of species such as insects, mammals, and birds. It should be able to help us track changes that are currently being made to try and improve biodiversity, and to see what the impacts are on species over the next 5-20 years.

It’s based on the Living Planet Index, a project run by the Zoological Society of London and the WWF, which is tracking global biodiversity trends in a similar way.

How can people contribute?

The datasets used in the Bristol Wildlife Index are made up of long-term species records that have been sampled at the same place, at the same time, every month or year. Much of this recording work has been carried out by dedicated charities, local recorders, and by Citizen Scientists

The important part about long-term studies is that the amount of input being put in each time is fixed. This reduces the risk of recording an “increase” in population size during a particular year because more time was spent looking for them during that year. 

Many charities will provide training to support you in long-term data collection. One example is the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Bee Walk, in which participants walk a timed 1km transect once a month from March - October every year. 

If you would like to contribute to the Bristol Wildlife Index, you can support though two options:

Support your local Wildlife Trust by becoming a member. Wildlife trusts are a great place to start your journey of becoming a wildlife recorder, through training events, wildlife walks, learning how to identify species and making connections to other local recorders. 

Take part in a long-term study of wildlife in the West of England

If you are able to commit to taking part in a long-term wildlife study, here is a list of monitoring schemes in Bristol which you can take part in. Many provide full training or support from local coordinators to help you get started.