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Openreach joins UK-wide insect biodiversity survey, encouraging other vehicle fleet owners to step up

Openreach, the UK’s largest wholesale broadband provider and the owner of the nation’s second largest commercial van fleet, has today announced its involvement in the 2024 “Bugs Matter” survey. The national citizen science study is organised by Buglife, Europe’s largest invertebrate conservation charity, and Kent Wildlife Trust, the county’s leading conservation charity to raise awareness of insect conservation.

The UK wide survey – which started on May 1st 2024 and runs until September 30th 2024 – encourages volunteer citizen scientists to measure insect splats (the number of dead insects) on vehicle number plates as a sign of insect abundance.

With a fleet of 29,000 vehicles which covers more than four million miles every year, Openreach has the potential to make a huge difference to the study and is aiming to double last year’s input data by recording 4000 Openreach journeys alone. It’s hoped that this commitment, from one of the nation’s largest fleets, will inspire other businesses and organisations to get involved with the survey.

Already supported by a nationwide network of volunteer citizen scientists, the “Bugs Matter” study has been conducted on an annual basis since 2001, based on a reference survey by the RSPB in 2004.  Analysis of records from nearly 26,500 UK journeys over this period shows a continuing decrease in insect numbers, with the number of insect splats nationwide in 2023, 78% lower than that of 2004. By logging their 4000 journeys, Openreach will help expand this dataset significantly and generate even more crucial data on flying insect populations across the UK.

This partnership, launched in National Insect Week, is just one of the many ways in which Openreach is working to minimise its disturbance to natural habitats and move towards becoming a nature positive business. This comes as the business embarks on a wider push to become more sustainable, focusing on three key areas in its journey to net zero; lowering its carbon emissions, reducing materials and waste and protecting the natural environments it encounters.

Commenting on the partnership Andrew Whale, Chief Engineer for Openreach says:Using our fleet and our engineers on the ground to support this important piece of citizen science is simply the right thing to do, and an easy one for everybody to take action for nature; we can all get involved, it’s very simple to do and we are proud to support one of our partners in improving this critical data”

Paul Hetherington, Director of Fundraising and Communications at Buglife says:Insects are vital for sustaining healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, but many species are declining at an alarming rate due to habitat loss, pollution, and other threats. We’re thrilled that Openreach is using their vast operational reach to amplify the Bugs Matter message. Their mobilization for this cause throws down the gauntlet for other major fleets to get onboard as well.

Dr Lawrence Ball, Lead Ecological Data Analyst at Kent Wildlife Trust adds: With Bugs Matter we are building a unique and incredibly valuable dataset, being the only large-scale and species-indiscriminate survey of flying invertebrate abundance. The commitment of Openreach and their drivers, will significantly increase the size of our dataset, making it more robust, and of even greater value for accurately estimating trends in insect abundance over time and space.”

 

Further details on supporting Bugs Matter can be found at buglife.org.uk/get-involved/surveys/bugs-matter/

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