Memorandum submitted by The Wildlife Trust
for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside
Locus standi of The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire,
Manchester & North Merseyside
We are part of the Wildlife Trusts partnership,
which is the UK's leading partnership dedicated to all wildlife.
The network of forty-seven local Wildlife Trusts and our junior
branch, Wildlife Watch, work together with local communities to
protect wildlife in all habitats across the UK, in towns, countryside,
wetlands and seas.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester
and North Merseyside was formed in 1962 by a group of local naturalists
who wanted to help protect the wildlife of the old county of Lancashire.
It is now the leading local environmental charity covering the
sub-region defined by Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside
and the adjacent Irish Sea.
To work for a region richer in wildlife
by the protection and enhancement of species and habitats, both
common and rare.
To work towards public recognition
that a healthy environment rich in wildlife and managed on sustainable
principles, is essential for continued human existence.
To be the key voice for nature conservation
within our region
To use our knowledge and expertise
to help the people and organisations of Lancashire, Manchester
and North Merseyside to enjoy, understand and take action to conserve
their wildlife and its habitats.
Our responses to some of the questions you have
raised appear below, using your headings and numbering.
2. What is the role of systematics and taxonomy
and, in particular, in what way do they contribute to research
areas such as biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services and
climate change? How important is this contribution and how is
it recognised in the funding process?
The role of taxonomy is fundamental to the delivery
of the Species Action Plans (SAP) that forms the bulk of the United
Kingdom Biodiversity Action Plan and the Local Biodiversity, Action
Plans (LBAPs) that derive from it. In our sub-region these are
the Greater Manchester LBAP, the Lancashire LBAP and the North
Merseyside LBAP. (There is currently no functional LBAP or equivalent
for the Irish Sea.)
Without knowledge of what identifies a particular
species and the expertise and facilities to identify it in the
field a decision that the population of such a species is so rare,
or in such steep decline that such a SAP is justified is essentially
impossible. The production and delivery of that plan is then,
self-evidently, severely compromised.
Two particular cases are pertinent here:
The only known population of Jennings' Proboscis-worm
(Prostoma jenningsi) on Earth occurs in a flooded former
clay pit in Chorley Borough, Lancashire. The pit is managed for
Dr J. O. Young of Liverpool University discovered
the proboscis-worm as a new species in 1969. It was described
by him and by Professor Ray Gibson of Liverpool John Moores University
in 1971 (1).
Intensive searches of more than 200 other ponds
in North West England (Lancashire, North Merseyside and Wirral)
have failed to reveal other populations. Beyond sporadic local
searches for the species there are no current research activities
on it. Previous studies are limited to the original description
of the species (1) and preliminary ecological investigations (2).
Certain identification of the species requires
detailed histological study of its internal morphology. Consequently,
actions to conserve this species or confirm its occurrence anywhere
else on Earth are entirely dependent on specialist taxonomic expertise
and laboratory facilities, which are at a premium.
Further information may be found in the Lancashire
Biodiversity Action Plan (3).
Common Pipistrelle & Soprano Pipistrelle
Until relatively recently, the UK's pipistrelle
bats were believed to belong to a single species (Pipistrellus
pipistrellus), estimated to have declined in numbers by 70
per cent between 1978 and 1993(2). "The Pipistrelle"
was therefore included on the list of Priority Species in the
It is now known that there are two species of
this bat; the "Common Pipistrelle", (Pipistrellus
pipistrellus) and the "Soprano Pipistrelle" (Pipistrellus
pygmaeus), the Soprano Pipistrelle being new to science. The
two species are distinguishable mainly by the pitch of their echolocation
calls though they are also, of course, genetically distinct.
The UK Pipistrelle Species Action Plan has a
target to restore both species to their 1970s population levels
and geographical ranges. Estimating these historic levels will
require taxonomic genetic analysis of historic "Pipistrelle"
specimens to discover to which of the two species they in fact
A third species, Nathusius' Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus
Nathusii), has now been discovered in the UK. It has been
recorded from locations across the UK but appears to be very rare.
7. Does the way in which taxonomic data is
collected, managed and maintained best meet the needs of the user
community? What is the state of local and national recording schemes?
Local government has no statutory obligation
to maintain a biological records centre in the way that it must
maintain an up-to-date archaeological Sites and Monuments register.
There here has been no effective Local Biological Record Centre
or Network for Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside since
the local government reform of 1974. As a result we have been
without an integrated system for the deposition, management, analysis
and retrieval of biological records for our sub-region for a generation.
In our opinion, the very lack of such a system has very likely
led to a decline in local taxonomic expertise and biological recording
as there is no resourced institution charged with encouraging
the taxonomic skills necessary or supporting the recorders in
validating their identifications.
We hold some biological records that we have
gathered ourselves over time, and some records that have been
shared by other local organisations, However, when we, or other
nature conservation practitioners, or ecological consultants working
for prospective developers, or educational institutions, or interested
members of the public wish to acquire a knowledge of the distribution
of a particular species or variety of species for a particular
locality in our sub-region, we and they are obliged on each occasion
to contact numerous local and national institutions and individuals
to achieve a comprehensive and up-to-date picture. The time "wasted"
in such protracted searches must add up to a significant economic
12. What are the numbers and ages of trained
taxonomists working in UK universities and other organisations?
13. What is the state of training and education
in systematics and taxonomy? Are there any gaps in capacity? Is
the number of taxonomists in post, and those that are being trained,
sufficient to meet current and future needs across all taxonomic
It is our general experience that trained taxonomists
in all fields, with the possible exception of ornithology, are
becoming progressively scarcer. As infirmity and death overtakes
them it will be difficult to replace the lost expertise of the
current, elderly generation of taxonomists for many yearseven
if training courses (at degree and post graduate level) started
Amongst our own conservation staff (aged between
25 and 50), such taxonomic expertise as there is has largely been
gained despite rather than as a result of the content of the degree
courses they attended, mainly in the 1970s-1990s.
1. Gibson, R. & Young, J. O. (1971).
Prostoma jenningsi sp. nov, a new British freshwater hoplonemertean.
Freshwater. Biology. 1, pp. 121-127.
2. Gibson, R. & Young, J. O. (1976)
Ecological observations on a population of the freshwater hoplonemertean
Prostoma jenningsi Gibson and Young 1971. Arch. Hydrobiol.
78, pp. 4250.
3. Lancashire Biodiversity Action Plan (www.lbap.org.uk)Species
Action Plan for Prostoma jenningsi (a ribbon worm).
Thank you for this opportunity to contribute,
it is much appreciated.