Springtail atlas progress 2015 & 2016

Shropshire springtail recording timeline

The data driving the charts and visualisations on this page are derived from the Shropshire Springtails Atlas database, curated by Pete Boardman, as it stood on 14th November 2016. The atlas project was 'launched' at the Shropshire Ento Day in December 2015.

The time-series below shows that the genesis of the Shropshire Springtail Atlas can be traced to the day that Pete Boardman found the first UK specimen of the stunning pink springtail Bilobella braunerae in his Shropshire garden and started to record springtails in earnest. But the time-series also graphically illustrates the effect that the atlas project has had, particularly in respect to participation.

Remember that the spreadsheet driving the graphs in this visualisation reflect the current spreadsheet of determined records (as of 14th November 2014). However, a considerable number of records collected over the course of 2016 have not yet made it to the spreadsheet because they are awaiting determination (i.e. we have a back-log of samples to work through). As these samples are processed the figures on these graphs for the year 2016 will increase. So if you have collected samples that have not yet been determined, you numbers for the period shown here will increase as we work through the samples.

The people - recorders and determiners

This visualisation shows the number of people involved in recording and determining springtails to date. Pete Boardman's contribution is so great that it dwarfs those from the rest of us! But you can use the slide-bar to adjust the y-axis and get a better view of the considerable contributions of many recorders and determiners.

The engagement of so many recorders collecting and/or determining what has traditionally been regarded as a very difficult and 'uncharismatic' group has been one of the most remarkable things about springtail recording in Shropshire over the past few years. Most people who have contributed to the project do not consider springtails to be their primary recording interest, but there's a feeling amongst Shropshire biological recorders that 'anything is doable' and 'everything is interesting'. The success of the project to date is testimony to this remarkable and growing community of entomologists in Shropshire and the degree to which they work together as part of an extended team.

The springtails!

Peter Shaw lists something in the order of 265 species of springtails to be found in the UK. At the end of 2014 about 40 species had been recorded from Shropshire. These came from only 74 records, mostly from lists of species generated by the Soil Mesofauna courses that had started to become a fixture of the Preston Montford calendar. Now that figure is up to 100 species - a substantial proportion of the entire UK fauna - from over 1800 records.

The visualisation below shows all the taxa recorded from Shropshire ranked in order of abundance. You can switch between counts of actual records or recorded grid squares of different sizes. It's no surprise that the most commonly found species are the larger and more 'charismatic' ones, but it is also good to note that we are discovering many of the harder to record taxa too, thanks to the large body of recorders active in Shropshire.

100 taxa are squeezed onto the visualisation, so it's hard to see them all, but you can view a slice of these taxa more clearly by playing with the slider range control.

Atlas coverage

The figures and graphics below show that we have already achieved a commendable level of geographic coverage in Shropshire, especially at the hectad (10 km) level. It is not unreasonable to aim for 'complete' coverage of Shropshire at the quadrant (5 km) level and we are well on our way to achieving this. But what do we mean by coverage? Do we include all squares that overlap Shropshire, even by the tiniest amount, or do we set a threshold? Do we consider that a square is 'covered' if a single record of a single taxon is found there, or do we set thresholds for that too? The visualisation allows you to change these thresholds and see the effect that has on coverage for the current records.

Aiming for a good geographic coverage is a key aim of the atlas project and, to that end, we have developed interactive distribution maps to help people target recording in 'gaps' or on squares without many taxa or records.

Squares Covered Percentage
Criteria for including a square in coverage stats.
Criteria for considering a square as 'covered'.

Footnote: the visualisation on coverage was made possible by generating a spreadsheet of all grid squares overlapping Shropshire and the area of each of them occurring within the Vice County. This was created using QGIS. It may be of general interest and use to people recording in Shropshire and can be downloaded here.