What is biological recording?

Identifying a plant, animal, insect or other living thing and writing the details down is called biological or wildlife recording. People have been doing this for hundreds of years and many thousands are actively involved in collecting records across Britain today.

See an explanatory publication from the National Biodiversity Network - Darwin Guide to Recording Wildlife

Why biological records are important

All actions for wildlife, such as setting up a nature reserve, planting trees, creating a pond or changing farming practices need information or data on

  • What species are present (including the number)
  • Where they were seen
  • What is their conservation status (are they common or rare)

Biological records provide the basic information for all meaningful actions to protect and enhance wildlife. We may also use them to check that our efforts have their intended effect. Government agencies and local government require detailed and reliable information so that they can carry out their statutory functions, which include protection of some species. With climate change becoming more inevitable it is particularly important to monitor any changes in numbers, locations and status of wildlife. Better understanding of declines or increases in species populations, or changes in their locations, enables us to plan how to avoid local losses, and be forewarned of any important changes underway in the natural world.

Local Biodiversity Action Plans provide a focus for national recording effort to provide a response to new and emerging EU and international biodiversity initiatives. More details can be found on the JNCC website and the Scottish Biodiversity website.

Wildlife recorders have always collected records because they find it enjoyable, interesting, and are contributing to the conservation of our natural heritage. Traditionally, records have then been brought together to produce national distribution maps. While this is still important and some marvellous atlases containing maps for wild plants and butterflies have been published recently, it is increasingly the case that wildlife records are needed immediately at the local level. In understanding what is going on in our local wildlife reserves, gardens, towns and fields, we may better manage and conserve species on a national level.

The Scottish Biodiversity List lists Priority Species and Habitats showing background to why they are priorities.