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New wildlife-friendly apps launched

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Organisations are keen to promote greater understanding and involvement in caring for our natural heritage. These new online tools should help you do your bit when it comes to supporting mammals, bees and trees.

International Day for Biological Diversity sees the launch of a new tree identification app Leafsnap UK by the Natural History Museum. If at the moment you don’t know your elm from your oak, this app will let you load up a photograph for instant tree identification and at the same time add your sighting to a UK map tracking which species occur where. Using the app’s 2000 high-resolution images you can also zoom in to see trees up as close and personal as the fine hairs on a common beech leaf.

“Leafsnap UK is an exciting development for us, bringing Museum knowledge and expertise right into the palm of people’s hands. The app will help people to identify and explore the UK’s fantastic diversity of trees, by combining identification technology with beautiful images and fact files,” said Dr Fred Rumsey, botanist and identification expert.

Leafsnap UK is currently available for iPhone and iPad from the App Store. For more information go to: www.nhm.ac.uk/leafsnap

Similarly if you want to help support scientific understanding of mammals, The Mammal Society has produced its new national smartphone app ‘Mammal Tracker’ which again allows you to identify and submit mammal sightings to contribute to the National Mammal Atlas – this will ensure more is known about mammals and how their populations change. “People often don’t realise how little is known about the distribution of mammals and even less is known about their numbers. We need to ensure that mammals are no longer the Cinderella of wildlife conservation,” said Louise Sleeman MaWSE Atlas Officer. The app is available to download free on the Society’s website (www.mammal.org.uk/ ) and given the delightful images it contains you really will feel motivated to spot them in the wild.

How bumblebee friendly is your garden? You can check out your own individual rating here http://beekind.bumblebeeconservation.org ,find some top tips on how to make your garden even kinder to bees and again add your findings to a national survey.

Bumblebees, which help put the buzz in the British summer, are still worryingly low in number and, despite their best efforts on our behalf, are going hungry and homeless as their traditional rural habitats disappear.

So the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is asking gardeners to provide havens for bees to replace those being lost in the countryside. The Trust’s website quiz helps you rate how well your current plants support the bees and suggests others you can add to bring your score closer to those of higher achievers in your area.

In essence, bumblebees depend for their survival on old – fashioned cottage wildflowers and the message is that, if we plant these, we will be protecting our own interests too. Bumblebees ensure the continued existence of some our most popular food choices such as peas, tomatoes, many varieties of bean and that other symbol of the British summer, the strawberry.

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