The Power to record -A Biodiversity Manager's Dreamland

The MOVING MOUNTAINS NATURE NETWORK has massive potential to increase the volume and quality of information that will be used to assess the STATE OF NATURE in the future.

So many individuals have reported that there are endless data sets for wildlife recorded and stored, but that they are then rarely accessed. This is because they are often hard to analyse in terms of developing trends for abundance or distribution of species, simply because the collection process is not co-ordinated and repeated.

With over 80,000 species of flora and fauna in the U.K and such a wide range of habitats and sites the above scenario is understandable. To be fair there are millions of us all trying to do our bit to record and safeguard nature.

3,148 species had enough population and distribution trend data to be included in the STATE OF NATURE report and of these 1,309 were plants and 668 were Moths (Though I feel there may have been species of Moth added twice in this total count).

Of the 668 British Spiders and 1,544 threatened species of fly, there was insufficient repeated and geographically complete data for any to be included as part of the report's assessment.

Despite the excellent work of Buglife, there was insufficient information from standardised and repeated surveys of the less fashionable invertebrates (Flies, Centipedes etc), to provide any conclusions, whilst considering the STATE OF NATURE in our woodlands.

The information on plants was restricted only to distribution information accumulated from 1962 to 1999. By the time the report went to press this data was outdated by 14 years.

This deeply concerns me because, whilst farmland bird species continue to decline at alarming rates, we have very little data that can be analysed regarding the food species that they rely on to feed their young.

We have to be so thankful to the millions of volunteers, wardens, Council biodiversity officers and the national wildlife bodies for the volume of information and co-operation that made the STATE OF NATURE REPORT possible at all.

The MOVING MOUNTAINS NATURE NETWORK (MMNN) can effectively provide the following:

1. A membership which carries out simple surveys and information requests in a repeated standardised form that can channel straight into the next STATE OF NATURE report.

2. A bank of species data for each member site, that the MMNN can use to extract standardised data, without members having to use time and resources.

3. A body that can work closely with the national wildlife organisations, in order to increase the uptake of their existing surveys and to help create new ones, targeted at priority species or habitats, and also to provide answers as to why our wildlife is vanishing. Member site surveys can mirror those conducted on reserves managed by organisations such as The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB, to increase the population of data available, and so increase the reliability of conclusions drawn from them.

4. By updating species status records annually for all member sites, broadening the range of species recorded and repeating surveys at regular intervals, both abundance and distribution data will be far more available in the future.

5. By working alongside the National Biodiversity Network, we can expand the amount of information available for national reports, for example by encouraging members, to adopt "iRecord", where they have not already.

6. A feeling of importance to every individual that records nature in the U.K. All information gathered by MMNN members and their volunteers will be collated in a way that feeds directly into future STATE OF NATURE reports; no filing away in cabinets to gather dust without having any impact on the protection of nature. Everyone will feel an attachment to the nature reports that they directly helped to create.

7. Current data sets offer limited information that records how well individual sites are fairing, in terms of the wealth and stability of their bio-diversity. MMNN can provide this information which will be critical to our understanding of the reasons why so many species are in decline. If the biodiversity of a site is in decline, standard surveys can be issued to find out why. Similarly, for success stories, other standard surveys can be conducted to establish the factors that led to the protection of bio-diversity. Some people shy away from this approach because they say that each site has it's own unique challenges and positive factors. I disagree entirely. Case studies can act as precision tools to understand why we have put our nation's flora and fauna at so much risk in just 40 years and to highlight management methods that have proved effective so that they may be used at other sites.

8. There is scope to identify old data sets that have not created trend data for abundance or distribution of species. By repeating the survey methods we can use stored data to produce new trend information.

9. All member site's habitat types are logged so that surveys can be released which focus on one particular habitat type, in order to gather more accurate information that is specific to them.

I want to revolutionise the way that we collect and interpret wildlife data. I feel so sorry for officers that are under pressure to use ever-decreasing resources to meet strict bio-diversity recording and management objectives, only to see their resultant work being locked up, without ever being used in a constructive and conclusive manner.

I have been impressed by the enthusiasm of biodiversity officers, green spaces managers and "patch" watchers across the U.K. and I find it frustrating that so much of their hard work cannot be fed into the think-tank that will eventually discover how to stop the U.K's natural wealth from disappearing.

MMNN aims to change this. Become a member now and help safeguard nature. Your records and participation really can make a difference.


  1. Although I agree totally with the aims and objectives of MMNN there is one area which is always overlooked. We tend to be reactive when dealing with wildlife populations, moving forward in a linear strategy to find solutions for current and developing problems. This means that little value is attributed to older and retrospective records. MMNNs aims are complex and challenging enough at this stage but it would be excellent to find some way of archiving past data so that current trends can be measured against a more comprehensive overview of previous status and therefore a more accurate assessment of the speed and proportion of a populations decline should become achievable.
    One of the saddest things about recording wildlife is that when an individual eventually dies there is often nowhere for that persons life's work to be accommodated, these records often ending up in a skip or bonfire, a sad testament to that individuals efforts which may have genuine value at some future time. I have always attested that only respecting assessed and accepted records is inevitably as inaccurate as accepting all records. On the one hand many legitimate records from intelligent and sincere recorders are discounted while the accepted records almost certainly only reflect a proportion of the actual occurrences of a particular species. We need to move away from a paradigm where the recording of species is totally undertaken under the auspices of a perceived academic hierarchy. I would contend that adopting a not proven status (similar to category 'D' of the BBRC/BOURC list)for unaccepted but sincere records would not create a greater statistical deviation from the truth than does the current system. One of the most estimable aspects of MMNN is that it moves toward this more permissive approach to the recording of the natural world, something that should be applauded and supported by as many individuals and organisations as possible.

  2. I wholeheartedly support the idea of breathing fresh life into old records by conducting repeated surveys, so that it respects the hard work of those that have dedicated their lives to supplying the original data (as suggested at point 8 of my report above).

    I think that we can lower some of the barriers to recording, because the increased uptake will add so much to the overall picture, and with the information coming from sites that have lodged species archives to allow for site trend analysis, the overall accuracy can be maintained.

    With so many people emphasising concern for data gathering dust, without ever making an impact, I really want to place this aspect high on the agenda with this initiative. Human resource and enthusiasm should be utilised as fully as possible, and I would really like our aim to be to create data which is WHOLLY used and useful for drawing conclusions regarding The State of Nature in the U.K. and also to identify the specific reasons for decline in both individual species AND the biodiversity within a particular site or habitat so that action can be taken. The position regarding use of chemicals and the state of our Bee population is a shining example of how we cannot act effectively without developing conclusions beyond doubt, which creates unity in action.