More than 300 scientists are participating in this year’s National Park Service-National Geographic BioBlitz. The eighth in a series of annual events to inventory species in a national park complex, this year’s BioBlitz is being held in the San Francisco area’s Golden Gate National Parks, the most visited national park region in the U.S. in 2013 (14,300,000 visitors).
The National Park Service, National Geographic, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and Presidio Trust are hosting the 24-hour BioBlitz species count and two-day Biodiversity Festival, Friday-Saturday, March 28-29.
The three national park units that make up the Golden Gate National Parks encompass more than 80,000 acres and 91 miles of shoreline along the northern California coast. The complex is home to more than half of the bird species of North America and nearly one-third of California’s plant species.
At an informal dinner this evening to welcome the more than 300 scientists who will lead some 2,700 grade school students, teachers and other members of the public on inventories to identify species, John Francis, National Geographic Vice President for Research, Conservation, and Exploration, said the number of people visiting Golden Gate Parks put a lot of pressure on the ecosystem. Golden Gate contains the third largest number of federally protected endangered species, he said.
Golden Gate is part of the UNESCO Golden Gate Biosphere Reserve, which includes 19 ecosystems and 7 distinct watersheds, Francis said. “So we are in an area that is absolutely phenomenal when it comes to biodiversity and visitation.”
“There is no doubt that we are going to find new species to the park and new species to the region,” said Bert Frost, National Park Service Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science. “And it wouldn’t surprise me if we found a species new to science. We’ve done it before and we can do it again,” he added, referring to the discovery of entirely new species in previous BioBlitzes. Discoveries were made because the scientists participating in the BioBlitz were willing to help the National Parks with their time, energy, and expertise, Frost explained. “You are going to help us find out more about the parks, so that we can better protect these resources.”
The Golden Gate BioBlitz kicks off tomorrow. Scientists will start leading the first citizen participants in the species count as early as 8:30 a.m. The free Biodiversity Festival will take place at Crissy Field’s East Beach in the San Francisco Presidio, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 28, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 29. The festival will feature science demonstrations and exhibits, live animals, hands-on activities provided by prominent science and environmental organizations, National Geographic-led photography workshops, food, entertainment, and art.