Making more of biological recording


JNCC has recently set up a six-year contract with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) to support biological recording, analysis and interpretation, so that data collected can have a bigger impact in conserving our natural environment.


The wide variety of species and habitats around us have a critical role in supporting basic natural services upon whichThe Killer Shrimp is an example of an invasive non-native species where rapid reporting is needed © NNSS humans depend, e.g. pollinating crops and regulating water supplies. Conversely, biodiversity is threatened by many human-induced pressures such as pollution, habitat fragmentation and invasive non-native species. Evidence of the status of species and habitats, and the effects of pressures and conservation action, is needed to support decision making to protect the natural environment and the services it provides.


Citizen science provides a valuable role in providing such evidence. In the UK there are many people who enjoy getting out in the countryside and recording the wildlife they see. Many of these have a wealth of expert knowledge and experience.  As part of JNCC's new research contract, and supported by the country conservation bodies, the Biological Records Centre at CEH is working with natural history schemes and societies to support volunteer recorders and make better, quicker use of the data they collect.


One key task is supporting online recording and verification systems. This cuts down the number of steps needed in the data flow chain, making the process more efficient and reducing the time needed between a species being observed, and the verified record being published on the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.  Another task is to develop new sampling strategies, for example to better target rare species, and to link species recording to priority habitats. Working with expert volunteer recorders, this will enhance the data collected as a basis for answering questions about some of the more threatened species and habitats.


The contract also sets out to develop new analytic techniques to provide policy-relevant information on trends in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Species records have long been used to produce distribution maps. However, methods being developed and tested by the Biological Records Centre are now allowing the production of trends over time for some species where records have been collected in an ad hoc manner.


Non-native species in particular greatly benefit from rapid and efficient recording and analysis of trends. Delays in understanding spread of an invasive species results in delayed management and can be very costly. Closely linked to the work JNCC is funding is a project to support the Non-Native Species Information Portal (NNSIP). The NNSIP project is funded and managed by Defra, but has been included as a component of the Biological Recording Analysis and Interpretation contract to encourage the work areas to better benefit from the links between them.


This is an exciting time for biological recording as new opportunities both enhance the volunteer recorder experience, and enable their records to be better used for the benefit of conservation.


Contact File


Anna Robinson

Monitoring Ecologist

Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866851


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