The Invertebrate Site Register


The early days
The Invertebrate Site Register (ISR) was developed to raise the profile of invertebrate conservation in Great Britain by acting as a fast track data and information gathering tool. It was a runaway success producing a unique series of publications detailing all the relevant information known at the time about rare and scarce non-marine invertebrates. The publications were in two 'series': county based accounts of important sites and taxon based accounts of scarce and threatened species.
The middle years
The ISR continued to be added to, but at a slower rate, and continued to provide information to a broad constituency. It became an established institution in its own right and was regarded with envy by those working with other, similarly neglected taxa, such as the lower plants, and by other invertebrate conservationists in continental Europe.
At this time the whole issue of finding, collating, interpreting and making use of information relevant to nature conservation was in the process of revolution. The need has always existed but the tools available were (and still are) developing at a great pace. It was at about this time that the thinking behind the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) began to take shape. The ISR was, in essence, one of the prototypic elements of the NBN (others include the ornithological information networks e.g. WeBS and the common bird census as well as the well established butterfly monitoring scheme).
The ISR is no longer maintained as a central database; each country agency keeps a national dataset and adds to it. Archive material is held at BRC Monk's Wood.
In the process of developing the ISR Stuart Ball developed a relational database to make the data work efficiently. This has now developed hugely to become Recorder - a standard setter in the field of data collect /collate software.
The NBN is now established and well on its way to functioning as, amongst other things, a data warehouse for all taxa, including invertebrates. Many of the mechanisms used by the ISR to agree access to data, agree levels of confidentiality, agree who can have access to what level of information about given species have now been formalised within the NBN. One important difference between the ISR and the NBN is that the former aimed to hold all the necessary information within a central database - at the time this was the quickest and most efficient way to mobilise the data. The NBN, by contrast, aims to link data and information held by those who know it best: the originators. This applies to information about species e.g. taxonomy, distribution or ecology, as well as physical data such as SSSI boundaries, river courses or county boundaries.
Material contributed to the ISR over the years will become a part of the NBN, and will be available to the conservation community.
The ISR set a precedent: it showed that taxa that are data poor can, none the less, be assessed for conservation status and that conservation action can be based on sound principles - not the least of which is the precautionary principle.
To access ISR information please contact the relevant country agency invertebrate zoologist.
EN – Roger Key
CCW – Adrian Fowles
SNH – Athayde Tonhasca