The Society/Conservation Strategy
From British Arachnological Society
- The BAS was founded with primary role of promoting the study of arachnids in the U.K. It brings together over 300 members in the U.K. who cover the full spectrum of interests from university academics through teachers to interested natural historians, with the latter accounting for the largest majority.
- The Society is a small charity with no commercial or political interests and thus is in a good position to provide balanced and impartial advice on the biology and ecology of all British arachnids. The Society has no paid staff and all of its activities are carried out by the members in their spare time.
- With the increasing threats to all invertebrates, and arachnids in particular, the need for the Society to become involved in scientific aspects of arachnid conservation is clearly recognised.
- The aim of this document is to set out in broad outline the BAS strategy for its involvement with conservation. In doing so, account is taken of the limited financial resources available to the Society and limits on the time available for members involvement in this aspect of its work.
- It is also recognised that both the needs of conservation and the aspirations of the Society in this area are likely to change over time. This document is thus seen as only a first version, with the expectation that it will be expanded and changed in the future.
- The primary role of the BAS is seen as being the provision of advice, acting essentially as an expert consultant to those organisations (both governmental and otherwise) who are charged with conservation of biodiversity in the UK.
- A secondary but very important role is in providing both support and encouragement to individual members who are involved directly in conservation of arachnids, either as part of their job or in an unpaid capacity.
- The Society will collaborate closely with other organisations involved with invertebrate conservation, including governmental organisations (e.g. JNCC, Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage ), national NGO’s (e.g. Buglife, RSPB) and local conservation bodies (e.g. the Wildlife Trusts). The aim will be to exploit the specific strengths and complementary knowledge of all of these organisations in ensuring delivery of effective conservation advice and ensuring that advice is put into practice.
- To ensure the Society’s commitment to arachnid conservation, BAS Council has appointed a Conservation Officer. The principal role of the Conservation officer will be:
- to develop and implement conservation policy and action on behalf of the Society
- to advise Council on conservation matters as appropriate.
- The Conservation Officer will chair a Conservation sub-committee, members of which will provide support and expert advice on all matters relating to conservation.
Current and possible future BAS inputs to conservation
- Distribution recording. This aspect of our conservation biology work is already well developed under the able leadership of Peter Harvey. There is perhaps a need to consider ways in which the relevant information in both the existing and future databases might best be analysed and made available to potential users in the wider conservation community. There will be a clear need for close liaison between the conservation and SRS sub-committees in considering these issues. The SRS database will provide crucial data on future changes in distribution and status of RDB and notable species. This is particularly the case now that information on numbers of individuals, micro-habitats and habitat management has been included as structured components of the recording.
- Assessment of Species Status. The society is already playing key role in building on the work of the SRS, the provisional atlas and the gathered expertise of the members to assess the conservation status of spider species in the UK. The collation of data for a new Red Data Book listing and appraisal of rarity (nationally notable species) is ongoing and should be completed by June 2006.
- In 2005 the UK list of BAP spider species was reviewed and changes were made to the species listed for priority conservation action. A small group from the BAS has provided a preliminary list of 50 spider species which are thought to fulfil the criteria for action plans. Once this list has been reviewed and approved, preparation of action plans can proceed.
- Future BAS Species Action Plans. In some instances, the BAS may wish to put together action plans for particular species in order to raise their profile within the conservation world. These would need to be very broadly phrased and avoid specifying the participants in the BAP. They would also need to follow on our own analysis not just of the need for conservation but also the likelihood of success in the light of availability of appropriate survey and monitoring techniques.
- Monitoring of individual species status. Obvious candidates for regular monitoring are very rare species, where effective techniques are available to do so. In the future, the Society might wish to consider expanding this to develop a targeted monitoring protocol along the lines of the key sites initiative for dragonflies or butterfly transects. In doing so, however, the Society will need to bear in mind the limited human resources available for such a task and the fact that the field techniques used for monitoring groups such as butterflies and dragonflies are not appropriate for most spider species.
- Advice on site management. Although management of sites of conservation importance tends to be a local issue, it is nonetheless important to the BAS. The Society should consider provision of advice on appropriate management for a given spider species or suite of species. In some cases, this might appropriately extend to more general advice on management for invertebrates.
- Information collation. A problem in providing advice on conservation of arachnids is the limited and highly dispersed nature of the available data on which to base recommendations. It may be worth the BAS considering setting up a database on conservation management for spiders which would include both published and unpublished information on the known requirements of the species in question, their population biology, the conservation actions taken and the known or suspected outcomes of those actions. At present, this could only cover two species in depth (E. sandaliatus, D. plantarius) and quite a few species partially. It could of course be added to as more species are studied. It could also include habitat-based information e.g. the data on occurrence of heathland spiders in different phases of the heather growth cycle from Peter Merrett’s work in Dorset.
- Acting as a clearing house. This is essentially part of the work that the Secretary does. It includes publicising our expertise and encouraging consultation from and with conservation bodies. Anyone concerned about arachnids should think of the BAS in the first instance, for which the Secretary will be the first point of contact. We might include something (possibly on the web-site) about our willingness to collaborate with organisations concerned with conservation of other invertebrate groups. As this aspect of our work develops, linking into European and wider networks may become more important.
- Conservation education. Education in aspects of conservation might be directed both at the BAS membership (e.g. stressing the value of repeated surveys and quantified techniques in surveying) and at the general public, stressing both the need and the reasons for spider conservation. While the web-site would be a useful tool for education of the public, other media (information leaflets or pamphlets, charts, talks to appropriate organisations) would also be important. This aspect of our conservation work should be developed jointly between the conservation and education sub-committees.
- Conservation research. The Society has a role to play in the provision of advice to students and suggesting topics for research etc. in relation to arachnid conservation. While in most cases this will be through individual members who already work as academics, in time it should be possible for the Society to develop a list of species and habitats (or sites) which are in need of conservation.
- Natural History and conservation. Amateur natural historians can play an important role in conservation through observations that provide greater knowledge of species habitats, food sources, reproductive requirements etc. The Society has a role here both in bringing to the attention of natural historians the need for observations on particular species of interest and, possibly, in providing a focal point for collating this type of information.
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