A research project that monitors wildlife on farms is being used to support the drive to agricultural net zero in the UK
Spotted: Wildlife and insect populations around the world are in decline, and more data on species trends is needed to come up with robust solutions. The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) is currently engaged in an ambitious, five-year research programme, dubbed AgZero+, which is designed to support the UK’s transition towards domestic, carbon-neutral food production with automated biodiversity monitoring stations.
As part of this programme, UKCEH has developed automated monitoring of insects, using sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) to measure the effectiveness of peatland restoration schemes in improving biodiversity. The UKCEH will use the solar-powered stations to record the presence of animals like insects, birds, and small mammals.
The stations will be placed at farms that are using practices designed to reduce emissions, increase carbon capture, and support wildlife. They will measure the impacts of these schemes on species populations by taking high-resolution photos and sound recordings of the animals. AI software will then be used to identify species from photographs and (eventually) recordings.
According to Dr Tom August at UKCEH, the AMI system is the first to be deployed in large numbers. “Understanding trends in species and what are driving [declines] are key to knowing the size of the challenge, its cases and how these factors vary.” It will initially focus on moths, which are important indicators of biodiversity and habitat health.
The next stage for the technology is developing AI software that can recognise a wide range of species from photos and sounds to a high accuracy. Dr August says that they are developing edge processing software to accomplish this, in partnership with the Turing Institute. AgZero+ is supported with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Solving the biodiversity crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Other projects spotted in the Springwise archive that aim to improve biodiversity include the implementation of microforests and the use of microbial cover crops.
Written By: Lisa Magloff