The Royal Parks operates and fundraises for 5,000 acres of parkland across London. By celebrating heritage, promoting health and wellbeing, and protecting nature, the Royal Parks provide 77 million visitors each year with treasured green spaces to explore, value, and enjoy.
In 2017, thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery, Mission: Invertebrate was launched. The aim of the project was to discover, celebrate, and protect nature's unsung workforce: the millions of invertebrates that live in the Royal Parks. These invertebrates, animals without backbones, work 24/7 to keep our environment flourishing and our food chain flowing. Invertebrates play vital roles as pollinators, natural recyclers, and as a food source for many birds and small mammals.
Habitat loss means invertebrate numbers are declining. The Royal Parks' mission is to learn more about the invertebrates in the parks through specialist surveys and citizen science. The charity also wants to help them by enhancing and building habitats, and raising awareness of their importance with schools and families.
In its pilot year, Mission: Invertebrate welcomed 7,000 people to 34 family activity days across the parks, where visitors of all ages enjoyed hands-on activities and interactive storytelling. The Royal Parks' schools learning programme encouraged over 3,000 students from 71 schools across London to investigate the wonderful world of invertebrates, and 139 citizen scientists spent 1,290 volunteer hours collecting data about the parks' invertebrates.
Thanks to player support, Mission: Invertebrate has been able to commission new research recording the presence and distribution of several thousand invertebrate species, including the first sighting of a species of bug new to the UK. This information is vital in guiding Mission: Invertebrate and the park manager teams to focus habitat improvements works where they are needed most. In 2017, Mission: Invertebrate planted nearly 5,000 square metres of pollinator-friendly wildflower habitats across the parks, and instigated two new conservation grazing trials to improve grasslands.
Players have awarded the Royal Parks £1.3 Million to date. This funding is allowing the Royal Parks to respond to the demand to develop an adult learning programme, with workshops, volunteer opportunities, and guided walks already filling up the calendar. The huge popularity of its family days, and a desire to extend is reach beyond the park gates has led to investment in a purpose-built education vehicle to enable the charity to reach as many communities as possible. The Royal Parks is also growing its collaborative partnerships, working on new projects with local communities.
You can find out more about its plans for the year on the Royal Parks' website.
Dr Alice Laughton, Mission: Invertebrate project manager, said, "The first year introduced thousands of visitors to the importance of the fantastic minibeasts living beneath our feet across the 5,000 acres of London's historic Royal Parks, and sparked real interest in the hot topic of invertebrate conservation in the capital. We're delighted that, thanks to ongoing player support, Mission: Invertebrate can continue to develop, ensuring that we provide urban havens that people and animals can enjoy and thrive in together."