Biological Recording Week: Day 5 - What is the Point of Recording my Sightings?

Biological Recording Week: Day 5 - What is the Point of Recording my Sightings?

During this week, Ryan will be introducing us to the topic of biological recording. Day 5 looks at some of the many uses for biological records.

Hi everyone,

Welcome to day 5 of my series of posts on biological recording. So far, we have covered what biological recording is, how to generate records and the flow of data. But why should you spend your time recording wildlife anyway? Today's post will reveal all why 7.5 million hours of volunteer time go into monitoring wildlife every year in the UK!


Firstly, I really enjoy being able to know what species I am looking at. Knowing a species’ name allows me to find out more information about that species, and it becomes a familiar friend. It is great to know how many species call my local area, or our nature reserves home. So, for me personally, biological recording allows me to do this. Biological recording can also be a very social thing, talking with others about findings, sharing them on social media and feeling part of something bigger.

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.

Collage of a variety of insects

Insect collage - Ryan Clark


When records are collated at a local level, they tell us about how species are faring locally. They allow us to attempt to answer many questions, such as which species are faring better than others locally? Why is one species found in this area, but not across the road in that area? Records centres collate this data where is can be used by consultant ecologists to ensure that notable and protected species are considered in the planning process. This could mean halting development or ensuring that mitigation takes place. The more records they hold, the better the picture they can have to inform protection of these species. Locally we can map where species are found at a county level, and comment on which species are locally common or rare. Records for common species are just as valuable as those for rarer species and are often more informative than records of rarer species.


When records are collated nationally, they become even more powerful and tell us how wildlife is faring at a wider scale. We have atlases that cover the whole of Great Britain and show where individual species are found. One example of this the NBN Atlas which aims to pull together data from a wide variety of sources. A number of these atlases are in a printed format and make great coffee table books to learn about species’ ecology and where they are found, and often discover weird and wonderful species you never imagined existed. By pulling together data at a national level, species experts can also carry out status reviews which outline which species are common and which species are rare, this helps to prioritise conservation efforts. A huge amount of data goes into these amazing reports.

Some local and national status reviews and atlases

Some local and national status reviews and atlases

We are living through a time where the climate is changing, this is already having effects on our wildlife. Biological records allow us to predict the way in which climate may affect species and help influence conservation work and look at which invasive species may arrive in Britain. These predictions are only going to get more accurate as we collect more data. Last year marked the release of the third ‘State of Nature’ report which analyses how nature is doing in the UK. The 2019 state of nature report highlights dramatic declines in our wildlife and outlines some of the reasons behind this. A lot of the metrics in this report are entirely based on biological records from biological recorders... amazing!

Read the 2019 State of Nature Report



Records can also be collated at an international scale, allowing us to analyse data across a European or global scale and develop conservation priorities. I find it amazing that one observation that someone makes in their garden or local area can feed into international and global wildlife conservation. Your records really are generated once and used hundreds of times.

Hopefully this has inspired you to get out there and get recording. Biological records really are an essential building block of evidence based conservation and we can all make a difference by sending in our records. Tomorrows blog post will look at ways to get help with identification and send in records.