Over the past few years the UK has seen the spread of a number of invasive species and diseases that are bringing about significant change to the existing flora and fauna. The causes are complex although they are likely to include climate change, and less than effective bio security, allowing their import into the UK.
The causes should be reviewed to identify causes where greater diligence on may prevent continued access. That being said, we cannot turn the clock back, so the emphasis must now be on obtaining data and interpreting the information to gain an understanding of their effects and how quickly they are spreading.
We in the golf industry are uniquely placed benefiting from access to the beauty of golf courses that offers a tamed natural environment. More importantly, golf also provides significant areas of naturalised semi managed and unmanaged areas. The key to why the golf industry can be so useful in helping to obtain data is the geographical spread of UK golf courses, almost literally from Lands End to John O' Groats. The additional benefit to the studies are the varied habitats provided within the golf industry including coastal, heathland, parkland, water, woodland (deciduous and coniferous), ancient hedges, highland, lowland - well you get the idea.
Urban courses on sites that have been surrounded by developments also offer a natural resource for wildlife, people and researchers.
Hanson Associates are working with OPAL (Open Air Laboratory), a lottery funded project led by Imperial College London, backed by the Department for the Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Environment Agency and many academic organisations.
The purpose is to encourage 'citizen science' by getting the public involved in monitoring a range of specific projects to obtain sighting of invasive species and disease as they colonise the UK.
The information provided is pooled and access provided to the scientific community to allow mapping and research to assess the effects on existing ecosystems. The potential data volumes and geographic spread of the sightings will go far beyond anything achievable by a handful of scientists' research, given current budgets. More importantly, the project is encouraging engagement and an understanding of the dynamic nature of our environment, as well as the repercussions of changes initiated by us and climate change.
How can we contribute? It is very easy, the OPAL website provides free downloadable resources to allow people of all abilities to conduct surveys, results can be entered on online or you can post completed surveys to OPAL. A couple of apps are available from the OPAL website for both Android and Apple operating sytems and provide information on identification and reporting any sightings you may have.
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