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Thursday 10 Jul 2014

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Scientists to carry out DNA tests after rare finds at BBC Springwatch events

A volunteer holds a stag beetle found at the Springwatch Wild Day Out

A fungus which could be a newly-discovered species and an incredibly rare beetle reported only once before in the UK during the past 40 years are some of the amazing and unexpected discoveries made during a BBC Springwatch event at an urban park.

Scientists and members of the public also unearthed a male and female stag beetle during the Springwatch Wild Day Out at Alexandra Palace Park in London, leading experts to believe there is a breeding population of Britain's largest beetle – a protected species – in the park.

The surprise finds were among over 700 different species of plant, animal and fungi spotted at the park during a 24-hour BioBlitz organised as part of the Wild Day Out by the BBC, the Natural History Museum and Open Air Laboratories (OPAL), a community-based science project supported by the Big Lottery Fund.

Around 100 scientists, naturalists and students were joined by more than 8,000 members of the public to explore the park's wildlife and race against the clock to identify as many species as possible.

Although the majority of the plants, birds, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates were typical of the biodiversity of wildlife in an urban park, scientists were thrilled by several unexpected discoveries.

A rare variety of the Bolbitius fungus was found by a volunteer. It is only the fourth time that it has been found in the UK and London-based experts are now using DNA testing to investigate whether it should be classed as an entirely separate species.

The rare beetle Amphotis Marginata was also found. This is only the second time that it has been reported in the UK since 1969.

The surprise discovery of stag beetles – Lucanus cervus – will be supported by conservation activities held during the BioBlitz, as the London Wildlife Trust built a stag beetle loggery with the help of participants.

Alexandra Palace Park also contains an important area of acid grassland. It is the only site in Haringey where the grass Danthonia decumens can be found and scientists were delighted to see the population doing so well.

The Springwatch Wild Day Out, held earlier this month, was one of many Springwatch-themed events and activities taking place across the country as part of the BBC's popular Breathing Places campaign. More than 150,000 people attended the free events, which marked the International Year of Biodiversity 2010, promoting the importance of protecting a wide range of species across the UK and around the world.

The Springwatch Wild Days Out also aimed to encourage biodiversity in gardens, parks and outside spaces and to inspire new wildlife heroes to do something for nature.

Dr John Tweddle from the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, part of the Natural History Museum, says: "Finding well over 700 different species in an urban park shows the incredible diversity of wildlife living around us. Many members of the public spotted plants and animals that the scientists hadn't yet found, so everyone contributed. Feedback from participants has also been really inspiring, with many saying that they will now view the park in a new way and look out for its inhabitants!"

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham says: "It's great that so many people were motivated to go out and join in with the Wild Days Out. While the vast majority of people will be seeing common things for the first time, unleashing that many people outdoors, the trained eyes amongst them were bound to make some exciting finds. It's fantastic, a win-win."

On Sunday 20 June viewers can join Chris, Kate Humble and Martin Hughes-Games from the Springwatch team on BBC Two for an inspirational Wild Night In - a two hour fund-raising extravaganza featuring David Attenborough, Graham Norton, Edith Bowman and other celebrities in support of threatened wildlife and wild places through the work of the BBC Wildlife Fund.

Notes to Editors

BBC Breathing Places is a five-year campaign to encourage all of us to get outside and make space for nature. Developed in partnership with a huge range of wildlife and conservation organisations, the campaign encourages new audiences to get involved in doing one thing for nature, while providing opportunities for Breathing Places to be created across the UK. Already millions of people have been inspired to do one thing for nature.

£9.5m from the Big Lottery Fund has been invested in creating new breathing places. Over 10,000 schools have signed up to BP School, and nearly 10,000 breathing places are registered on the BBC Breathing Places Event Finder.

bbc.co.uk/breathingplaces provides details on how to do one thing for nature where you live, from putting up a bird feeder to creating a breathing place. The public can also search around 10,000 breathing places on the Breathing Places Event Finder to locate nature-friendly places and events near them.

A breathing place is great for both wildlife and people. It has an active community of people creating, enjoying and maintaining it.

Springwatch presenter Martin Hughes-Games will be encouraging nature lovers to help by spotting ladybirds this summer. Join in the UK Ladybird Survey between the end of May and mid June. There are 46 species of ladybirds in the UK, but over 5,000 in the world. Find out how you can take part and record your sightings at bbc.co.uk/breathingplaces. This is a great chance to do one thing for biodiversity.

The BBC Wildlife Fund will disburse donations through an open application grant process commencing in October 2010. Grants will be made to UK-registered charities, broadly allocating 20 per cent of donations to projects conserving wildlife in the UK and 80 per cent of donations to projects outside the UK.

The BBC Wildlife Fund is accountable, with a range of wildlife specialists and partners in the sector who can explain current approaches, are independent and are open to challenge. We support positive action which provides tangible results.

Find out more at bbc.co.uk/wild, where you can also sign up for the Wild newsletter and find out how the BBC Wildlife Fund has made such a huge difference to local and international wildlife already.

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