Biodiversity Audit at RLS

Our school is filled with life. Many species of plants, animals, and insects are abundant at RLS. Although our Environmental Club has focused on finding ways to improve environmental sustainability at RLS, like sorting recycling and compost or making signs, this term we have been focusing on biodiversity and understanding the importance of species at our school.

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S6 Club members Ornella and George auditing near the main school building.

In September, we conducted a plant biodiversity audit at RLS. We wanted to quantitatively determine RLS’s biodiversity. Species biodiversity, or the number of species that exist in an environment, is important for understanding how that environment will adapt to change, like a natural disaster or disease. To find species biodiversity, we wanted to find the biodiversity index of the school through our audit. The biodiversity index is a measure of the species diversity. Many biodiversity audits are done using “quadrats”— measuring out a one-meter by one-meter square and counting the number of species found within that square. The number of total individuals and the number of species are both counted and recorded in order to find the biodiversity index. By using many quadrats, the average biodiversity index of a large plot of land can be calculated.

Biodiversity Index=   # of Species / # of Individuals

So, if there are 100 individuals total, but they are all the same species, the biodiversity index would be very low, at .001. But if there were 100 individuals and 100 different species, the index would be 1. 1 is the maximum—perfect diversity.

We split up into three groups and divided the school grounds into three sections, each group with a drawn map of their section of the school. For our first auditing outing, we didn’t use quadrats, but instead just wanted to map out zones of the school so that we can better select areas to put quadrats. We made a large map showing where exactly on our school grounds certain types of plants could be found—we have a large open football pitch and meeting area, our gardens, and more wild growth areas. Then, later, we began counting species! It took a lot of time and careful counting with our tally sheets, but we eventually came together and averaged what we found. Katie, the environmental specialist at RLS, calculated the biodiversity index based on our results.

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S6 members Amani, Derrick, and Shukulu working on mapping their section of RLS for the biodiversity audit.
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Sam, Jean Bosco, and Karekezi Bosco mapping and auditing the section of RLS near the Tally Labs.

According to what we found, the biodiversity index at RLS is .43, which means that RLS is “relatively diverse.” We have many green spaces, but because a large part of our school grounds are gardens or our meeting spaces, the plant biodiversity may be less.

Through this Environmental Club activity, though, we learned about the importance of biodiversity and some of the positives and negatives of biodiversity at RLS

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A map of RLS that we made to show where certain types of plants can be found.
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Some members of the Environmental Club after counting species!
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