They are primary or secondary school children, public park managers, amateur or veteran naturalists, sailors and farmers. They love dragonflies, coastal vegetation or bumblebees. Throughout France, they are listening for or tagging everyday birds, collecting seawater samples, taking pictures of pollinating insects, inventorying their city’s wildlife, or recording the ultrasounds emitted by bats.
For the past 20 years, the MNHN has appealed to the public to identify signs that point to the impact of climate change on biodiversity as part of three different programmes: Vigie-Mer, Vigie-Nature, Vigie-Nature École.
Following simple observation protocols designed to answer scientific questions, volunteers provide the scientific community with quantities of pertinent data on the trends in populations and ecosystems. Beginning in 2016, the collaborative project 65 Million d’Observateurs (65 million observers) will help extend participation in the MNHN’s participative citizen programmes.
Nadia Améziane, MNHN professor, head of the Station de biologie Marine at Concarneau
“Last 25 April, we launched Objectif Plancton (objective plankton), a citizen science project. The weather was abomidable, but the crews of the eight pleasure boats that were participating managed to simultaneously sample seawater that not only enabled us to explore plankton diversity around Concarneau but also to analyse the relationship between species and their environment. This experiment, conducted four times per year, will provide snapshots of the populations and enable us to monitor trends over time.
The initial results are still being analysed but have already proven interesting. Involving the public has allowed us to multiply the number and frequency of sampling in a given spot of a given region, especially since this is being done at several points along the coast.
We know that plankton, an indispensable link on the food chain, is highly susceptible to environmental changes, particularly variations in water temperature. Studying population changes will tell us something about the impact of climate change on the various species and help us to understand the repercussions on the ecosystem, notably on fish populations.”
Vigie-Nature: an example
Under the name Vigie-Nature, the MNHN has grouped twenty or so citizen science groups interested in ordinary biodiversity. Fifteen thousand volunteers participate.
The oldest of these groups, Suivi Temporel des Oiseaux Communs (temporal monitoring of common birds), has confirmed that birds are following climate change. Results show that bird communities have moved about 90 km to the north, whereas the average temperatures during this same time frame shifted about 270 km in the same direction. Retracing the distribution of common birds in relation to the climate is therefore difficult. The phenomenon weakens the species most vulnerable to rising temperatures.