UK Surveillance Schemes
Biodiversity surveillance in the UK involves
many organisations, including the devolved administrations and
their agencies, NGOs, societies and research bodies, often in
partnership. Together, these organisations invest many
millions of pounds in surveillance, and the value of volunteer
effort in these schemes is much higher. JNCC is a member of several
long term surveillance partnerships and detail of these can be
viewed on the JNCC surveillance webpage.
Details of the schemes that JNCC and our partners are involved
with across the UK are held by the UK Environmental Observation
Framework (EOF), which collates information on all
environmental observation and monitoring in the UK, including data
on pressures. This database includes information on schemes
where JNCC is a lead organisation, and where we
are providing funding and support to other work.
UK EOF is free to access and search the catalogue. JNCC
has provided the overview for land-based biodiversity schemes (the
EOF ‘Biosphere’ category), and has also has input to the Marine and
Freshwater categories. EOF surveillance and monitoring
information is divided into:
- Activities - a single project or element (e.g. the Core Counts
that are part of the Wetland Bird Survey).
- Programmes - a collection of projects or elements of
observations, potentially consisting of several activities (e.g.
the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme LINK)
- Data Sources - other sources of relevant information (e.g.
databases or digital maps)
JNCC provides an annual update to UK EOF on the progress and
development of our involvement in terrestrial biodiversity schemes;
updated information on marine schemes is prodived via the UK DMOS input.
Open access to biodiversity data is growing fast,
especially online via shared portals like the
National Biodiversity Network (NBN)
Gateway or websites of individual schemes. The NBN
Gateway, the Biodiversity Action Reporting System (BARS), indicator
initiatives and reporting systems are not included in the UK EOF
database because these are solely methods of information
dissemination and are not monitoring or surveillance schemes
per se. These are, however, important complements of a
The scope of biodiversity surveillance
Terrestrial biodiversity surveillance schemes cover a wide range
of schemes: surveys that may be repeated, stratified/random annual
sampling, collations of observations not made using a particular
sampling plan (often called biological recording), long term
multi-parameter, etc. This also includes schemes that are
sufficiently widespread and systematic to allow assessing trends in
distribution and/or range as well as other trends over longer time
frames. Small scale (both temporarily and geographically) surveys
are generally combined with other small scale surveys –
e.g. the local biological records centres combine the
results of many local surveys, the local biological records centres
have been included as schemes, but each individual local survey has
For coastal habitats only, JNCC has made a separate
collation of information on surveillance, including small
scale surveys. However, this should be seen as a snapshop of
activity at the time of collation (2005) as it has not
been updated. View coastal data catalogue.
Why do these schemes exist?
Most schemes exist because they were
championed by a specific interest group, with specific aspirations,
while some were started by government in response to particular
policy needs. Many of those pioneered by the non-government sector
have subsequently attracted public funding because they meet policy
information needs, and because they are cost effective, often
through providing co-ordination to voluntary effort. However, many
have developed in an ad hoc way and until recently have
not been reviewed together.
How is the data used?
Schemes operate at different scales and have differing levels of
sampling. Primary uses of data are species and habitat protection
and management, at site and wider countryside scales in the UK, and
for migratory species also in Europe and internationally. Data are
also being used to assess the impacts of broad pressures on the
environment, such as climate change and atmospheric pollution
The combined results of existing schemes can
meet requirements for evidence that cut across the specific taxa
and habitats, around which most schemes are orientated. Examples of
cross-cutting need include climate change adaptation/mitigation,
pollution mitigation, land management planning, and reporting on
the implementation of EC directives. Information on the
geographical coverage, detection scale, descriptions, and scheme
results can be used to help judge the likelihood that the schemes
can provide relevant evidence. In practice, simple exploration of
this kind would need to be the first step of a more thorough review
of a requirement against schemes to determine those most
What about the marine environment?
Marine habitats and species schemes are collated in the
UK Directory of Marine Observation
Systems (UKDMOS). In terms of biodiversity surveillance,
coastal habitats and sea birds are included in both systems.