BioBlitz reveals potentially rare stinging ant, mushroom, spider & possible new plant invaders

May 29th, 2010 by Jennifer Youngman, Communications Specialist

With more than 100 citizen scientists, university students and professionals scrutinizing Washington Park Arboretum’s nooks and crannies during Seattle’s first BioBlitz, there were bound to be a few surprises. A potentially rare native stinging ant, a potentially rare Amanita (mushroom) not often seen on the west coast, a potentially new species of spider and a couple of unexpected plants displaying suspicious behavior are just a few of the discoveries. Plus, a spider that is regionally rare appears to be common on Foster Island.

The inventory of the Arboretum’s birds, bats, lichens, fungi, reptiles, amphibians and plants (not counting the Arboretum’s plant collection, which is already documented) started at 3:00 PM May 21 and lasted 24 hours, including night-time shifts for cataloguing nocturnal life. One nocturnal lesson: participants collected regurgitated barred owl pellets, dissolved all of the material but bones, and identified bones and skulls to determine that the Arboretum’s owls dine primarily on Norway rats.

BioBlitz plants & animals mapped using handheld devicesThe après-BioBlitz is now in session. Data is being processed. Plant and invertebrate identification continues. Rare species are being confirmed. And plants such as Lonicera periclymenum, an ornamental Eurasian vine not known to be invasive here but found scrambling over plants, will be investigated to see whether they are potential new invaders in this region.

BioBlitzes have served as vehicles for biodiversity data collection for several years in locations ranging from the Nisqually Delta to Cape Cod and New York City’s Central Park. Seattle’s BioBlitz will be useful in establishing baseline data before the Highway 520 bridge project gets underway. Dr. Sarah Reichard, professor and co-associate director of the UW Botanic Gardens, worked with the Washington NatureMapping Program to organize this major undertaking, and the Arboretum Foundation funded it. Although insects were underrepresented due to cold weather and no bats were netted, more than 400 species of plants, animals, lichens and fungi were recorded. View the species tally to date and a list of predicted vs. observed birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

Check out the photo gallery accompanying this Seattle Times article. Thank you to all who contributed time, effort, expertise and enthusiasm to the BioBlitz.

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