Hundreds of churches across the England and Wales are taking part in a week-long nature count this summer to gather information on wildlife in churchyards.
People are being encouraged to visit churchyards and record the nature they find there as part of the citizen science event running from June 5 to 13.
Data from the “churches count on nature” scheme will be added to the National Biodiversity Network, which collates wildlife information from around the country.
The Church of England says that church land, which covers an area equivalent to a small national park and is often unploughed and undeveloped, could be a habitat for endangered plants and wildlife.
The Bishop of Reading, Olivia Graham said: “Together, churchyards cover a huge area – estimated to be equivalent to a small national park.
“We read in the Gospels that Jesus was deeply rooted in his natural surroundings, the rhythm of the agricultural seasons, the lilies of the field, the birds of the air.
“As Christians, we notice and celebrate the beauty and rich diversity of God’s creation. And from our thankful hearts flows our deep desire to care for and protect it.”
The project is being run collaboratively by conservation charities Caring for God’s Acre, A Rocha UK, the Church of England and the Church of Wales.
The count will be open to everyone and churches are being encouraged to connect with local schools and wildlife groups.
Visitors are being encouraged to take part in the count, whether they are nature experts or not, and online guidance on getting to know plants and animals is being shared with churches taking part to make it as inclusive as possible.
The Bishop of St Davids, Dr Joanna Penberthy, said: “Churches count on nature is an important and imaginative project open to all denominations.
“Church communities with churchyards, open spaces, burial grounds or land are being encouraged to take notice of them and document the plants and wildlife within them.
“Look at the website: it is simple to log in and has plenty of advice to help you.”
As part of the scheme, nature lovers can register for webinars on wildlife at: https://www.churchofengland.org/about/environment-and-climate-change/webinars-land-and-nature-churches-count-nature-week?mc_cid=47940097cc&mc_eid=01bb5f4387
And churches can sign up to take part at: https://www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/get-involved/expression-of-interest-in-churches-count-on-nature-2021/