mammal atlas cover
red squirrel picture pixabay

A new book maps the distribution of terrestrial and marine mammal species across the country, and shows how these distributions have changed over the past 30 years.

Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been produced by the Mammal Society and other contributors including the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and the Sea Watch Foundation. It aims to support scientific research and inform conservation efforts to protect mammals.

The atlas is fully illustrated with photographs and information on 84 species, including their ecology and identification, plus maps showing where they have been sighted. It is the first such atlas for 27 years and now includes information on the distribution of Britain’s whales and dolphins, which were not included in the previous edition.

The book was produced following an analysis of 1.8 million records of mammals submitted by individuals, wildlife groups and other organisations to determine the current and historic distributions for these mammals.

Professor Fiona Mathews of the University of Sussex, who is chair of the Mammal Society, says: “Iconic species such as the harvest mouse, water vole and red squirrel have undergone marked declines in distribution over the last 30 years, while others — including roe deer, polecat, and the non-native grey squirrel —­ have become more widespread.

“Bats too have seen changes to their distribution, with Nathusius' pipistrelle now regularly found in Britain, possibly as a result of climate change."

Dr Colin Harrower of UKCEH, one of the authors, says “This atlas is a fantastic resource, not only for the conservation and management of mammals, but also for researchers to better understand the status of this iconic group of animals.

“When used alongside the wealth of similar data for thousands of plant and insect species from dedicated wildlife enthusiasts, it can help identify the factors - such as climate change and habitat loss - that are leading some species to decline while others expand.”

Dr Harrower says the number of records analysed in the current atlas was three times the number involved in the production of the previous edition, Atlas of Mammals in Britain, by HR Arnold, which was published in 1993 by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, a forerunner of UKCEH.

The atlas can help identify the factors that are leading some species to decline while others expand - Dr Colin Harrower

Derek Crawley of the Mammal Society and lead author of the atlas, says: “We are extremely grateful to the citizen scientists, mammal groups, universities and other organisations who have helped enormously by sending in their records from across the country.

“Please don’t stop recording. More than ever before, we need to keep a close eye on how mammals are faring and anything you can tell us makes a huge difference to the measures we take to protect them for future generations.”

Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is available online from retailers now. Until 4 April you can receive a 30 per cent discount by purchasing via the publisher Pelagic’s website and using the code MATLAS30 at the checkout.

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