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The Importance of Submitting Biological Records

At this time of year many consultants are sending their survey data to Local Records Centres and, with the Biological Records Centre celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, it seemed appropriate to discuss the importance of sharing biological information.

Currently the National Biodiversity Network holds almost 96 million observations for plants and animals across the UK.  Although the majority of this data is submitted by an army of volunteers working for a variety of recording societies and schemes alongside members of the public recording on an ad-hoc basis, professional ecological survey is also an important source of data.  As members of CIEEM we have a duty to “make scientific data and information publicly available whenever possible” and it is also one of the terms of any Natural England licence to survey for protected species that the holder should submit details of species recorded.

So what happens to all of this information?

Publishing species distribution atlases is an integral part of the BRC’s work, with over 10,000 species currently covered.  These give periodic reviews of distribution data but are also an invaluable source of data for research.  For example; the data can be used to calculate population trends for species of conservation concern.  It can also provide information regarding climate change by tracking the northwards spread of species groups as conditions in the UK become more favourable for their survival, monitor air quality by examining changes in bryophyte fauna, or track the spread of economically important invasive species such as the harlequin ladybird.

Another good example of the use of biological recording data is work carried out by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust using existing biological records to undertake in-depth analysis on the great crested newt.  Using a variety of modelling techniques, the aim of the project is to predict key areas in which to target habitat creation thereby connecting existing populations, and ensuring that spending on conservation can have the biggest positive impact.

As can be seen from these few examples the collecting, collation and sharing of biological data can have important implications.  With the advent of smart phone technology and on-line recording resources making it easier for people to report what they have seen, this data will increasingly help us monitor the country’s biodiversity and make important decisions regarding its conservation.

Tags: Ecological surveys, Ecology, Environmental planning, News, Protected species