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A century after London’s modern postcodes were introduced to sort inhabitants of the city, a new project has been launched to record the capital’s smallest residents.

In March 1917, the numerical postcode was introduced for the first time, and now - 100 years on - players of People’s Postcode Lottery are helping to uncover the invertebrate population in London’s eight Royal Parks thanks to a £600,000 award.

Thousands of grassland creatures will be under the spotlight in a project stretching across seven postal districts, from SE10 at Greenwich Park in the east to TW12 at Bushy Park in the west.

The aim of Mission: Invertebrate is to inspire people with the amazing story of nature’s unsung workforce and to get a better understanding of invertebrates living in the 5,000 acres of London’s eight Royal Parks where 4,100 species have been recorded so far.

It will raise awareness of the important role invertebrates play in our everyday lives as well as provide park managers and their teams with invaluable insight into how they can manage grasslands and meadows to improve their biodiversity.

Over the next eight months, visitors will have a chance to play their part through several citizen science projects, which encourages members of the public to become budding scientists and get involved with real life research.

The two citizen science projects taking place this year are:

Spiny Supper Survey – to help establish what is on the menu for the only breeding population of hedgehogs in central London. Volunteers will study various areas of The Regent’s Park to find out how many and which types of invertebrates live there, and if their distribution influences the hedgehogs’ activity.

Ant-cient Grassland – home to the yellow meadow ant, it is estimated some of Richmond Park’s ant hills date back 150 years. Ant hills are closely linked to land use and are vital in helping determine the age of grassland. This study will find out how long ants have been living undisturbed in different parts of the park, and what effects different types of habitat have on the size of ant colonies.

There are also plans being drawn up for a host of invertebrate-inspired family activities throughout the year focusing on some of the fascinating creatures found in the parks from spiders, dragonflies and grasshoppers to worms, butterflies and moths.

And this summer, you might catch a glimpse of a giant snail sliding through the parks offering the opportunity for children to get close with nature and learn more about the miniature world of invertebrates.

Clare Bowen, who is leading the project for The Royal Parks, said:

“Mission: Invertebrate is an exciting year-long celebration to uncover the captivating story behind London’s hidden workforce.  Every day millions of tiny creatures are working 24/7 to keep our environment flourishing and keep our food chain moving.

“As the charity looking after these unique spaces right in the heart of London, we have an important role to ensure the areas where these tiny creatures scurry and scuttle are managed for them to thrive. This is even more important today as urban green spaces come under increasing pressure, and parklands are more valuable to wildlife than ever before.”

Alister Hayes, Head of Ecology, said

“This is the first Royal Parks-wide survey of invertebrates, and it will help plan how we manage the parks in the future. We’re delighted that People’s Postcode Lottery recognises the important role of invertebrates and that the players are helping us bring this project to life.”

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said:

“The Royal Parks are among some of the nation’s most treasured and iconic assets, and we’re delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting the charity with this landmark project, which will help uncover the secrets of the massive invertebrate population and secure their future survival.”

Take part in the citizen science projects or learn more about the project. You can also follow the Mission Invertebrate project on Twitter: @morethanbugs and Facebook: www.facebook.com/theroyalparkslondon.

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