KNP statewide survey of terrestrial molluscs:
the land snails
The Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves is pleased to announce an opportunity for Citizen Scientists to participate in a ground-breaking biodiversity study focusing on terrestrial mollusks (land snails to you and me). This is a project any hiker or group can help with if they can pick up a shell, take GPS coordinates of where it was found, and send it in. It is that easy, plus it doesn't involve collecting live animals or disturbing sensitive habitats.
Why study snails?
While there remains a scarcity of information and understanding of the value of land snails, a building body of evidence suggests that snails are even more important than we imagined. In Kentucky, snails are a food and calcium source to small mammals like shrews, moles and mice which are consumed by top predators such as owls, wild turkeys, grouse, wood thrushes, reptiles and amphibians like snakes, turtles, lizards, salamanders and frogs which are consumed by a number of predators and many invertebrates.
Declining land snail populations can have ripple effects to surrounding ecosystems. Many birds have declined as a result of disappearing land snails. A lack of snail shells (a known calcium source) in the bird’s diet causes the bird to lay eggs with thinner shells which break prematurely, reducing the bird’s reproductive success. Sensitive to changes in the environment such as chemical pollution, forest fires, and excessive land clearing, native land snails could provide early warning signs to impending “ecosystem-collapse” in both natural and agricultural lands of Kentucky. Land snails are also linked to nutrient cycling as well as dispersal of fungal and slime mold spores, which in turn sustain plant life. As part of the lesser majority, land snails are the building blocks of healthy, functioning ecosystems.
Although we know snails as a group are important, we don't know much about Kentucky's species. Several neighboring states have federally endangered snail species. Some are even extinct. By learning more about our snail populations we can work toward restoration of declining species and keep them from becoming endangered (or worse).
How can I help?
KNP Statewide Land Snail Survey Project is designed to maximize resources while minimizing costs through the coordination of local, state, and federal agencies charged with natural areas management, plus participation from Citizen Scientists across the state. We are seeking help from conservation groups, schools, home-school groups, civic organizations, colleges and universities, private biologists, and any other interested individuals. The project will focus on the collection, identification, and status of land snail species throughout the state with emphasis on the natural areas conserved by Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves programs.
For more information about how you can get involved, please contact Dan or Judy Dourson at