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In my previous blog I explained what rafting bivalve shells are and how Caribbean bivalves are ending up on British and Irish shores attached to plastics. There are numerous records of non-native bivalves on plastics in the southwest of Ireland and England but nothing has yet been reported in Wales, which is something that I’m trying to rectify. To encourage recording I’m enlisting citizen scientists – volunteers from the general public – who can help to spot and identify these rafting species in Wales. But first of all, I want to check to see if there are rafting species turning up on our shores so I began talking to groups who already go out on the shores to survey, beach clean or educate.

 

PLANED team at Wiseman's Bridge beach

In December 2019 I met with a fantastic group of people at PLANED in Narbeth. PLANED have excellent coastal community links and everyone I spoke to was enthusiastic and willing to incorporate the rafting bivalves project into their usual activities of beach cleans, foraging, outdoor activities or education.  They were keen to help record any rafting species that they discover and we talked about how to identify any bivalves found. Since then I have been working on an identification guide that I plan to develop with the help of these community groups.

 

Pembrokeshire National Parks staff and volunteers looking for plastics at Freshwater West beach

In February 2020 I met up with 35 people at the Pembrokeshire Coast National Parks offices in Pembroke Dock. They were eager to learn more about non-native bivalves on plastics. After lunch, those daring enough braved the freezing temperatures and gales to carry out a mini beach clean at Freshwater West beach. We found a lot of large plastic items in less than half an hour which we brought back to the car park for a closer look. Even though there were a lot of pelagic goose barnacles (stalked crustaceans related to crabs and lobsters that attach to flotsam) on some items, proving that the items had been floating in the ocean for a long time, no non-native bivalves were found.

Plastics found at Freshwater West beach - no bivalves attached, though!

In early March two colleagues and I attended the annual Porcupine Marine Natural History Society’s

Presenting the rafting project at the annual Porcupine Marine Natural History Society Conference at SAMS (Scottish Association for Marine Science).

conference where I presented the project and had several more offers of eyes on the ground to record and test the identification guide, which is great news.  I’ve also set up a Facebook page where volunteers can post images of any suspected non-native bivalves for me to identify. I’m hoping to meet up with several more groups later in the year to ask them to look for these pesky hitchikers so we can find out if and where they are attempting a Welsh invasion!

If you would like to help record non-native bivalves on plastics on Welsh beaches then do contact me at Anna.Holmes@museumwales.ac.uk

 

Anna Holmes

Curator: Invertebrate Biodiversity (Bivalves)
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