The 24-hour BioBlitz in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park last weekend added more than 400 species to park lists, including 190 species of invertebrates and 205 species of fungi previously unknown to the park, the National Geographic Society said in a news announcement today. At least one species of bryophyte is new to the park and potentially new to science, Geographic added in a release.
The BioBlitz was the fifth in a series of annual inventories of species in U.S. National Parks adjacent to large urban areas. The series is hosted by National Geographic and the National Park Service in the run-up to the centenary of the National Parks in 2016.
Nearly 200 scientists from around the U.S., thousands of amateur explorers, families and schoolchildren conducted a 24-hour inventory of the plants, insects, birds and other creatures that inhabit the desert park, National Geographic said in its news statement.
Highlights listed by National Geographic in its press release:
- 5,500 people, including more than 2,000 registered schoolchildren, participated in BioBlitz and its concurrent Biodiversity Festival.
- The initial species count as of the 3:30 p.m. closing ceremony Saturday was 859, and the number continued to rise throughout the afternoon as more data sheets came in from the field. Over the next few months, organizers expect the number to increase significantly as state-of-the-art testing of the collected samples continues.
- The 24-hour count, from noon Friday to noon Saturday, added more than 400 species to park lists, including 190 species of invertebrates and 205 species of fungi previously unknown to the park. At least one species of bryophyte new to the park and potentially new to the science community was also added, and the count continues.
- Renowned conservationist, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Wildlife Conservation Society scientist Dr. J. Michael Fay conducted a seven-day Tucson Transect. Walking from the backcountry on the eastern edge of the Rincon Mountain District of the park, crossing the city of Tucson and continuing to the western edge of the Tucson Mountain District, he documented every living thing he encountered.
- The Biodiversity Festival included a wide variety of music, Native American performances, dance troops, talks, nature walks, live animal demonstrations and other activities. The festival focused on biodiversity and encouraging the public to do their part to protect the environment. Many visitors interacted with representatives of science, nature and environmental organizations at more than 45 booths around “base camp” — the Tucson Mountain District Red Hills Visitor Center. Thousands of adults and kids earned “degrees” from “Biodiversity University” by participating in educational programs throughout the festival.
- An integrated art program at “base camp” included flags featuring local species, made by local artists in schools and recreation and senior centers. Festival participants were able to do art on site, and more than 100 poems and prose were written as part of a poetry inventory done with local scientists and writers. A poetry garden/walk displayed some of the submissions in their natural setting.
- New this year was a National Park Foundation Electronic Field Trip (EFT), where more than 90,000 registered participants logged on from schools across the country to participate in two live broadcasts during the BioBlitz. Millions more were able to view the EFT on public television stations nationwide. The EFT is also available for viewing anytime at www.electronicfieldtrip.org.
The 2011 BioBlitz was presented in collaboration with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Friends of Saguaro National Park.
The next BioBlitz will take place in 2012 in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.
David Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.
He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.
Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.