Newsletter 33

Newsletter 33

Ocotber 2005

Contents

NFBR News

At the time of going to print the 2nd Annual NFBR-LRCs Conference (see details below) will be taking place in Edinburgh on the 7th & 8th November. One of the key items for discussion will be the formation of the LRC Association.

NFBR Council have been discussing this for some time, particularly with regard to the future role of NFBR and it’s relationship with the new LRC Association. NFBR still sees it’s primary role as one of campaigning for biological recording and for supporting and developing activities which:

  • Promote standards in making and managing biological records,
  • Promote the use of collections in biological recording,
  • Engage societies & schemes with the potential for NFBR to offer products/services to them
  • Promote & improve training opportunities,

It is proposed that the LRC Association should have formal representation on NFBR Council alongside other bodies, and that there should be developed a Memorandum of Understanding between NFBR and the LRCA on taking forward areas of mutual interest. Watch this space!

Following the AGM at the last NFBR Conference in March the Committee pages & associated member profiles have been updated on the NFBR website (www.nfbr.org.uk). Minutes of the AGM are posted in the back of the Newsletter. Please help keep the website up-to-date by notifying Nick Moyes, the NFBR website manager (webadmin@nfbr.org.uk ), of any changes, additions, new website links etc.

Also since the AGM NFBR Council have approached Gavin Broad of BRC to be co-opted onto Council to maintain an active link with BRC staff (see http://www.brc.ac.uk/staff.htm ). He has readily agreed and will be invited to the next Council meeting in January. I am hoping to include more news from BRC in future newsletters.

Please also don’t forget that NFBR has the following egroups for communicating on a variety of issues:

nfbr@smartgroups.com - open to all NFBR Members - contact Craig Slawson at craig@salticus.org.uk

NFBRLRC@yahoogroups.com - open to all members of NFBR who work within local records centres –contact Mandy Rudd at mrudd@wildlondon.org.uk

Following on from last autumn’s 1st LRCs Conference in Birmingham there is also now an internet forum set up specifically for LRCs to discuss technical issues relating to Recorder, MapMate, GIS etc. Details of the Forum can be found on the NFBR website or contact Charles Roper at Sussex BRC at sxbrc@sussexwt.org.uk

Finally I am extremely grateful to all those who have contributed to this newsletter. I hope you find it informative. The next NFBR newsletter is planned for early Spring 2006. If you would like to send me any articles or just small items of ‘news in brief’ which you feel would be of interest to fellow NFBR members, I would be very grateful to receive them.

Best wishes

Nicky Court, Newsletter Editor

email : nicky.court.hbic@hants.gov.uk

LRC Conference – Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

7th and 8th November 2005 Topic: Biodiversity Data – Improving Management & Delivery

Contact Sara Hawkswell on sara@lothianwildlife.co.uk for further details of the conference, follow up reports etc. and Mandy Rudd (Greenspace information for Greater London) on mrudd@wildlondon.org.uk for progress on the LRC Association

Forthcoming NFBR Annual Conference & AGM May 2006

Topic: Biological recording for the future Dates & Venue to be confirmed

It is anticipated that the conference will take place over two days with workshops on the morning of the second day. Day one will comprise lectures on six themes central to biological recording in the future :

1. Landscape scale changes 2. Global climate change and freak weather events 3. Impacts of alien species 4. Species – indicators, flagships and keystones 5. Communities and assemblages 6. Conservation policy and the planning process – A forward look

Proposed workshops on Day 2 :

1.1 Long term monitoring 1.2 Recording the wider countryside 2.1 Public outreach recording 2.2 People for biological recording and funding their activities

As soon as the dates and venue have been confirmed and the programme finalised a booking form will be sent out and details posted on the website.

Proposed Review of the Status of the LRC network in the UK

It was agreed at the last NBN-LRC Steering Group meeting that a properly funded review of the status of the LRC network was needed, particularly to identify the blockages to completing the full network and recommendations on how to remove them. With funding from English Nature, CCW and SNH a Memorandum of Agreement has been drawn up between the 3 Country Agencies, the NBN Trust and NFBR to oversee the project. Bill Butcher has volunteered to represent NFBR on the Steering Group. The project is expected to take about 6 months to complete. Contact Bill at SERC for further details.

More about the Environmental Information Regulations

Trevor James, NBN Development Officer

In January, we reported on the then considered position on the EIR, and how they might relate to both voluntary sector data providers and organisations like local records centres. Since then, the NBN Trust has continued to discuss the issue with both the Information Commissioner’s office and the conservation agencies. Oliver Grafton, NBN Data Access and Quality Officer, has spearheaded these discussions. At the time of writing, however, the Trust has still not received formal confirmation of its own position in relation to the EIR, and has therefore not yet issued guidance.

There has been some progress, though, and the Agencies in particular have helped the Trust by producing some focused guidance that will help to clarify what people need to do and when. The main message we have received is “don’t panic”! So far, for most situations, it has remained very much “business as usual”.

A quick review of the main features of the EIR and current interpretation

In the first instance, it has become pretty clear that voluntary sector data do not fall under the EIR, except where they have been specifically commissioned by or are otherwise directly contractually supported by public authorities. So, if records have been made and maintained by a voluntary organisation, they do not fall under the EIR and their provision to the public remains at the discretion of the voluntary body. Voluntary data that have been supplied to a public authority can be construed as falling under the EIR. ‘Public authorities’ will include most (if not all) local records centres, as well as other publicly-funded institutions. In this case, the advice has become clearer: data they hold should be passed to enquirers, unless there are very good reasons not to. They also have a duty to actively promote their use. However, these obligations are not a blanket demand that all data be passed down regardless, and in this the new Regulations are not totally dissimilar to their 1992 predecessors.

The basic process that a public authority has to go through in making data they hold available is the “public interest test”. Is it more in the “public interest” that the data should be passed down or not? In coming to a conclusion, the public authority also has to bear in mind that the balance is towards making data available, not against, and that all the data they hold falls under this requirement. It is only that data from voluntary sector suppliers has more potential caveats attached than those that are definitely in the public domain.

So, how must bodies like local records centres approach this? The guidance from the Agencies has focused on two main “exceptions” under the EIR: the “Environmental Exception” and the “Volunteered Data Exception”. In addition, they have examined the implications of the clause that allows for an exception where “disclosure would adversely affect the interests of the person who provided the information”.

Guidance from the ‘Countryside Agencies Open Information Network’ has come in the form of two separate guidance notes that have been quite widely circulated but not yet formally published.

Essentially, the most immediate and secure approach is to ask “are these data sensitive?” Criteria for defining sensitivity should be drawn up. For example, the Countryside Council for Wales has provided to its own staff what it calls a “trigger list” of what is sensitive, and the same approach could be taken by others. Much of this will have been the basis for policies locally on providing data anyway, and so formalising this is a first necessary step in securing a position. However, it is worth stressing that the basis of sensitivity in this sense must remain environmental sensitivity, not other “sensitivities”.

Sensitivities of (private) data providers might be addressed in the “disclosure affecting interests” clause. When voluntary sector data are supplied to public authorities, the basis upon which they have been supplied is very important. This might include specific statements about so-called “confidentiality”. Unfortunately, very rarely are such data really “confidential” in the strict legal sense. However, the provision of data by the voluntary sector relies on trust, and if this trust is undermined by the release of data to third parties, then this might be construed ultimately as being against the public interest, because it is liable to disrupt the flow of information from the voluntary sector. The Agencies’ guidance note goes into great detail about the way this needs to be used, and it is a difficult area. However, it does appear that, in well-founded cases, this argument can legitimately be used.

What is less clear is whether a local records centre can use its “interests” in terms of its financial arrangements as a catch-all clause to avoid making data available. The likely answer is no, it cannot.

As for the National Biodiversity Network – we are awaiting final guidance on the position of the NBN Trust with the Gateway, but the indications are that data managed through the Gateway by a private organisation remain private, i.e. not subject to the EIR.

Also, if a public authority can legitimately show that by providing full access to their data through the Gateway this might legitimately cause problems, their use of the Gateway controls to “blur” the resolution of data is acceptable. This means that local records centres, for example, can use the Gateway as a means to communicate data freely, and to control sensitivities legitimately by releasing them at, say, 1km square resolution. However, they would have to have a clearly stated policy on the circumstances under which they are in a position to provide full access, for example a clear policy on the impact on their legitimate interests, such as financial support. The NBN Trust, meanwhile, has tightened up its procedures for making data available through the Gateway so that all datasets now have to have proper metadata meeting the needs of the EIR that spells out the position of the data suppliers on these issues. Oliver Grafton of the NBN Trust will supply guidance on this to interested parties. Contact : oliver.grafton@english-nature.org.uk .

 

Report from the BRISC 2005 AGM and Conference

Partrick Milne Home, BRISC

Biological Recording in Scotland (BRISC) held its annual conference and AGM in St Andrews at the start of April and had very interesting presentations on the theme of ‘Recording and monitoring the marine and coastal environment’. As well as six excellent speakers, the day finished with a couple of excursions to encounter some real live biodiversity. One outing took delegates along the rocky coast line east of St Andrews whilst the other went to Tentsmuir NNR, which is one of the most mobile coastlines in Scotland.

Full summaries of three of the presentations and on the Tentsmuir excursion can be obtained from BRISC, www.brisc.org.uk

Monitoring marine mammals around the UK by John Harwood and Kelly MacLeod, NERC Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews:

We were advised that the Sea Mammal Research Unit, SMRU, has been carrying out annual aerial surveys of all the major grey seal breeding colonies around the British coast since the early 1960s but the monitoring of porpoises, dolphin and whales has been less systematic until very recently.

The white-coated pups of the grey seals are easily counted in photographs taken from aerial surveys and there is now a very good picture of how numbers have changed over the last 40 years with current estimates of around 113,000 grey seals breeding around Britain’s coasts.

Harbour seals do not breed in well-defined colonies and they are counted when they haul out on sandbanks and rocky skerries. SMRU carries out aerial surveys every year but, because harbour seals are so widely distributed, it is not possible to survey the entire British coastline in one go and different regions are surveyed every year. The current population size is estimated to be at least 34,000, but numbers have gone up and down over the last 20 years, in particular they dropped following the two outbreaks of phocine distemper virus, in 1988 and 2002.

A number of voluntary schemes, such as the one run by the SeaWatch Foundation in Oxford, record the presence of cetaceans at various sites around the coast and collect information by placing observers on “ships of opportunity”. The results of this work have recently been summarised in the Atlas of Cetacean Distribution in North-west European Waters, published by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (see www.jncc.gov.uk). Although this work has provided an invaluable picture of where the different cetacean species occur throughout the year, it does not provide any estimates of the size of their populations. At the moment, the only way to do this is to carry out dedicated surveys using large vessels or aircraft. SMRU conducted the first major surveys of this kind (SCANS – Small Cetaceans Abundance in the North Sea) in 1994, with funding from the European Commission’s LIFE programme and SCANS-II, is scheduled for June and July 2005 and will cover a much wider area to include the entire west coast of the UK and Ireland and the Atlantic coasts of France, Spain and Portugal.

Monitoring seabirds in the Firth of Forth: Identifying impacts of fisheries, climate change and invasive plant species by Sarah Wanless, CEH Banchory:

The Firth of Forth is renowned for its abundance of seabirds and spectacular breeding colonies. A seabird monitoring programme has been running on the Isle of May for the last 30 years collecting standardised data for a wide range of parameters, e.g. population size, breeding success, adult survival and diet. These long-term datasets have been used in a variety of ways to highlight potential threats to seabirds and changes in the wider marine environment. Three contrasting examples were given, fishing, climate change and invasive species.

Sandeels are the main food of many of the seabirds, marine mammals and other commercially important fish such as cod and herring. When the Isle of May monitoring began no catches of sandeels were taken near the Isle of May. However, in 1990 a fishery started 30 km from the Isle and developed into a major fishery. Monitoring of kittiwake breeding success showed that output fell from an average of one chick per pair to only 0.5 chicks per pair while the fishery was operating. Sandeel fishing grounds down the east coast of Britain were closed in 2000 and initially the closure seemed to have worked and kittiwake breeding success returned to pre-fishery levels.

However, all this changed in 2004 when widespread breeding failures were recorded and climate change was believed to be responsible. Sandeels brought in by puffins to provision their chicks, showed that there had been a sustained decline in the average body length of fish and it seemed that the cause was due to environmental changes that were probably climatically driven.

The final example of seabird monitoring also involved puffins but, this time, the changes in numbers. The number of breeding pairs of puffins at the two largest colonies in the Firth of Forth, the Isle of May and Craigleith, have increased steadily over the last 30 years but the most recent census in 2003 showed that in contrast to the Isle of May, where numbers continued to increase, the number of active burrows on Craigleith dropped dramatically. The main reason for the decrease was attributed to the spread of tree mallow, an invasive plant species.

Marine recording in Scotland by Calum Duncan, of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS):

The MCS has actively involved people in conservation projects to help protect Scotland’s diverse seas that are home to over 8000 species of plant, invertebrate, fish, bird, seal, whale, dolphin and even turtle. MCS, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy Council, launched Seasearch in the mid 1980s to enlist recreational divers in seabed surveying to map the distribution of marine species and habitats, both the commonplace and those requiring conservation.

MCS Basking Shark Watch has collated sightings records of over 21,000 basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus or, in gaelic, cearban) from members of the public and in March 1998 MCS distribution records helped get the world’s second largest fish protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. There has been a 65% increase in Scottish basking shark sightings since 2001, whilst those in Southwest England have decreased by 66% but further research to explain this northward shift is required.

Since the MCS Scottish Office was launched in 2000, over 200 Seasearch divers have been trained on over 15 courses around Scotland. Sports divers can maintain Seasearch records locally, becoming experts on their favourite dive sites, and also contribute to UK marine species and habitats databases.

Green spaces, Living spaces

Report back from the NFBR Conference in Harrogate on the 4th March 2005

 

Overview by Mathew Frith , Peabody Trust

Britain has a well-renowned reputation for the gathering and analysis of information on its natural environment; our landscapes are probably the most intensively studied in the world. However, the science and culture of biological data gathering is at a crossroads. Digital technology enables ever-more powerful storage and analysis of information, and provides superb opportunities for the dissemination of data for a variety of end uses; green space strategies, site management plans, landscape assessments, etc. But will the knowledge and systems that the biodiversity conservation sector has accrued and developed since the 19th century end up parked in a cul-de-sac marked ‘obscure insects and disappearing habitats’? Maybe not; this conference aimed to outline how the growing sophistication of biological recording can help to underpin the work on urban greenspaces.

The Government’s Urban Green Spaces Taskforce report Green Spaces Better Places (2002) highlighted the continuing downward trend in the quality and investment into Britain’s parks and open spaces. We have subsequently witnessed a plethora of initiatives rolling out, seeking to address this decline; new policies, grants, standards, and organisations to champion them. In addition, the England Biodiversity Strategy (Working with the grain of nature, 2002) also explicitly acknowledged the significant role that parks and green spaces in our towns and cities have in supporting biodiversity. The various professions and disciplines involved in the design, management, protection and promotion of urban green spaces, of all sorts – can surely benefit from the cross-pollination of expertise and experience, including that of biological recording.

The NFBR, under the aegis of the National Biodiversity Network (NBN), is working with many partners to implement a co-ordinated and strategic approach to data that meets many of the needs of both gatherers (surveyors, naturalists, general public, etc.) and end-users. County-based local Biological Record Centres (LRCs) are fast putting flesh onto the NBN skeleton. But how well is this known and is it relevant for the needs of greenspace managers and designers? The thrust of the day – aimed at a largely ‘recording’ audience – was ‘you’ve got great toys, great skills – we need them and you to help us.’

Julie Proctor fired the day off sharply and succinctly by setting out the holistic approach of Greenspace Scotland, and highlighting the contributions that parks and green spaces can make to the health, well-being, regeneration and community capacity-building agendas. Echoed in more detail by myself on the Government’s key drivers (in England) of PPG17, PSA 8, and Sustainable Communities, it emphasised the need for accurate data to help prepare green space strategies, and management plans. In addition, the regeneration agenda is placing an increased emphasis on robust site assessments and mitigation packages. Information held by LRCs is essential in helping prepare these, as well as informing on more innovative approaches to incorporating specific biodiversity features into buildings, such as green roofs and walls.

Dave Dawson honed in on the work of the Greater London Authority in implementing the robust site system developed since a London-wide survey of open spaces in 1984/85. This has helped inform policy and practice at both a regional and borough-wide level, and by identifying Areas of Deficiency, has helped to set the priorities for improvements to access or site quality. The Centre for Regional & Urban Ecology’s John Handley outlined the similar principles of English Nature’s Accessible Natural Greenspace Standards, which, again, require the application of robust survey, analysis and evaluation of data, best held and applied by BRCs. Birmingham’s EcoRecord is such an example, amply demonstrated by Sara Carvalho.

Equally important is the growing understanding of the public’s interest in wildlife, but we were reminded of the great gap between the expert ‘amateur naturalist’ and the rest of us. Morgan Hughes of the Birmingham & Black Country Wildlife Trust fluently portrayed her remarkable project – ‘Windows on wildlife’ – which is training people on identification skills of familiar species (her report that one woman had never realised that bats actually existed brought ripples of concern from the delegates). Public surveys on urban mammals, organised by the Mammals Trust UK, likewise, are gathering significant data from popular interest. But it was Ken Thompson who eloquently blew a few cool blasts of controversy with his resume of Biodiversity of Urban Gardens in Sheffield (BUGS) project, and that exotic species ‘ain’t bad’ and ‘wildlife gardening’ methods don’t actually achieve much. However, private gardens are highly important constituents of the urban greenspace network, and combined probably constitute Britain’s largest nature reserve.

On a more specialist note Buglife’s Matt Shardlow quite rightly reminded us that invertebrates are where ‘its at’, and that much of our work on natural green spaces takes no account of them, which is why many of them are much reduced for wildlife. Of interest was the programme of Phoenix sites that Buglife are championing; those brownfields that support a highly diverse fauna and flora, and with some innovative approaches can become important parts of a wider greenspace network, for example Shellhaven in Essex. Not forgetting the city skies, Dusty Gedge amusingly demonstrated his charismatic up-front approach, ignoring protocol, and going straight to the heart of the matter. The work in London on black redstarts has exploded into green roofs, which may be designed for some of Buglife’s bugs and bees, let alone a number of birds (lapwings on Welsh industrial sheds?). And a roof-top survey of birds in the City of London in 2004 pushed the skills of many amateur bird-watchers to new heights. Both highlighted the fact that nature is all around us in the city if we only choose to look in the right places; and can help inform new policy and practice.

It was clear that the many drivers and political agendas within our cities are new to much of the biological recording community, but that the opportunities for their contribution to work on greenspace design and management are potentially huge. Birmingham’s EcoRecord and Greenspace Information for Greater London are already beginning to show what’s possible, and if we can get away from our silos of comfort, the technologies and methodologies of the biodiversity recording community have much to bring to the table. We should talk.

Green Spaces, Living Spaces – a role for biological recording?

A summary of the keynote from the March conference

Julie Procter, Greenspace Scotland

People from outwith Scotland think we have a superb natural heritage - the lochs, hills the heather. But that’s not what most Scots find on their doorstep. The reality is shortages of greenspace in many urban areas; abused spaces - vandalism, fly-tipping and burned out cars; green deserts which are no good for people and a disaster for wildlife.

You might think that biodiversity was of little relevance or interest to people living in these areas…but biodiversity does matter to people. A recent survey we conducted of a 1000 people living in Scottish towns and cities, found that 63% of people thought that greenspaces should provide opportunities to see nature but only 40% agreed that their local greenspace allowed them to explore nature on their doorstep.

GS1.jpg

Almost every greenspace community consultation identifies a wildlife area. The danger is that this is translated into an ‘off-the-peg’ wildlife garden. Your information and input is critical to make sure that the starting point is what species and habitats are there now and how can they enhanced and nurtured.

At a strategic level, as well as at site level, there is a real need for access to accurate and reliable information on biological data. There are a range of good examples across Scotland where locally recorded information is being used to inform the development of Open Space Strategies and the ecological management of parks and greenspace masterplans

In Scotland, we’re proud of our Biodiversity Strategy and its strong people focus. In his foreword, the Deputy Minister, states that ‘a key theme is to raise public consciousness and reinforce the link between people and biodiversity’. We really do need to connect with people and make it relevant and accessible to them – and if possible, fun too (we don’t all get our kicks crawling through bogs counting invertebrates!)

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One way of making it relevant (particularly to politicians, policy makers and planners) is to talk up the bigger picture. To use marketing speak – ‘sell benefits, not features’. Let’s stop talking just about counting (because raw data alone is never enough anyway) and focus on the outcomes. We need to be pragmatic and recognise that a big slice of an environment budget is always going to be a lot less than a small slice of a health or regeneration budget. So let’s start to focus on how we can get our hands on some of those other budgets.

This is how we’re doing it…‘Making the links’ takes the Partnership Agreement (the Programme for Government in Scotland) and uses research evidence and case studies to show how greenspace is delivering on the key policy commitments.

Take health – a dose of greenspace is just what the doctor ordered…If you’re recovering from surgery, you get better quicker if you look out on greenspace. Greenspace is nature’s Prozac – just viewing a greenspace for 3 to 5 minutes can significantly reduce stress. And it helps to get us active.

Greenspaces create places where people want to live and work; communities really do grow in greenspace. The more greenspace in an area, the more these are used by residents, this increases social interaction which means you’re more likely to know your neighbour and have a stronger feeling of community. This impacts on anti-social behaviour with higher levels of use, leading to higher levels of natural surveillance.

Making the links takes this across all of the key policy areas and you can go one step further and draw in the evidence relating specifically to natural greenspace elements.

So the message, I’d like to leave you with is: the work you do is important but there is a need to make it more relevant and accessible to a wider range of people – including politicians, policy makers and funders.

Looking to the future, you need to connect with people, start where they are (and that’s a focus on urban areas), make it relevant – fun and accessible, and keep talking up the big picture.

Julie Procter is Chief Officer of Greenspace Scotland.

GS was established in 2002 by Scottish Natural Heritage and partners, with funding support from the New Opportunities Fund, to provide a national lead on local action to regenerate and revitalise communities and places within and around Scottish towns and cities through the creation and sustainable management of greenspaces. www.greenspacescotland.org.uk

SOWERBY’S FRESHWATER JELLY’S RIPPLE ACROSS BRITAIN!

Colin Howes (Keeper of Environmental Records) at Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery

The delightful 2cm diameter transparent pulsating freshwater jellyfish Craspedacusta sowerbii, evidently a native of tropical Central and South America is now naturalised in many tropical and warm temperate regions of the world. More sporadically it has naturalised in higher latitudes in artificially heated conditions such as in aquaria and tropical lily tanks in botanic and zoological gardens. In Britain, populations have appeared in unheated outdoor situations since 1928 but have increased markedly since the 1980s in such habitats as canals, shallow freshwater lakes, reservoirs and flooded sand quarries. Media coverage of the occurrence at Doncaster’s Hatfield Water Park in 2002, together with the national review on the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union website (www.YNU.org.uk) have resulted in additional populations being reported as follows:

Shatterford Lakes, Kidderminster, Worcestershire (SO/7981). While the weather was warm and sunny on 7 and 8 July 2003, hundreds of medusae about 2cm in diameter were seen moving just below the surface of ‘Erics’ lake (Mark Weldon pers. comm.).

Parkers Pool, Ketley, Telford, West Midlands (SJ/6710). Hundreds of medusae were seen on 28-30 July 2003 (Alan George pers. comm.).

Bridgewater Dock, Bridgewater, Somerset (ST/2937). Over 100 medusae were present on 1-2 August 2003 and specimens were present on 6–8 June 2004 (Mrs P M Wright pers. comm.) See Somerset ERC website.

Ardenshaw Reservoir adjacent to Denton Golf Course, Greater Manchester (SJ/9096). Medusae were present on 21 August 2004 (J. A. King pers. Comm.)

Radbrook Green Pond, Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Hundreds of medusae were present on12 July 2005 (Sophie Lines Pers. comm.).

The jellies (see YNU website for photos) begin to appear in mid to late June. The main ‘blooms’, when largest numbers are noticed close to the surface during warm bright sunny weather are through August and September. Numbers quickly decline and vanish during October.

As for how the populations are transferred between widely dispersed still-water sites seems to be due to activities of the aquarist, coarse fishing and water sports interests. The circumstantial connection between scuba diving and wind surfing enthusiasts visiting (with the same damp kit) sites in Brazil and two South Yorkshire venues where the jellyfish occurs, suggests that aquatic sports associated with the Olympics may inadvertently add to our biodiversity in 2012!


Please forward any records to Colin Howes at Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery DN1 2AE Tel: 01302 734289 or E-mail colin.howes@doncaster.gov.uk

Tracking the progress of the Harlequin Ladybird

Trevor James, NBN Development Officer, BRC'

For just over 6 months, a project has been in progress to involve the public in recording the arrival and spread of the Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis across Britain. This was launched with considerable fanfare at the Natural History Museum in the spring, following the commitment of some funding from Defra, as well as from CEH Monks Wood, Cambridge University and Anglia Polytechnic University (now Anglia Ruskin). The Project is run by Dr Mike Majerus, Ladybird Recording Scheme Organiser, based in the Genetics Department at Cambridge UnUniversity, and assisted by Dr Helen Roy of Anglia Ruskin University, who has a particular interest in ladybird research.

Succinea.jpg

form succinea

With this funding, the Project was able to employ a Project Officer, Pete Brown, who is now based at Monks Wood, whose role has been to set up and run the recording scheme, carry out publicity and collate incoming data. A dedicated website was set up (http://www.harlequin-survey.org/), and publicity materials, information packs and web-data entry facilities have been put in place. Many demonstrations and poster presentations have been made across the UK.

The public response has been good. The aim was to get people to record not only any sightings of the Harlequin itself, but also to supply records of all the other ladybird species they might come across. The aim is to build on existing information from the relatively recent Cambridge Ladybird Survey (1984-1994) to form a base-line picture of the occurrence of the native species across the country; and then to use these data as a means of monitoring the impact of the Harlequin during the process of its colonisation.

The Harlequin Ladybird, originally from Asia, has been used in several places across the world as an aphid-control agent, in which it is very effective. However, it rapidly became apparent that, despite not being a problem in Asia, it was potentially a serious competitor with native species of ladybird elsewhere, as well as competing directly with important predators like lacewings, for example. The problem lies in its propensity to breed and develop late in the year, and to outstrip its food supplies. At this point, it becomes predatory on things other than aphids, and can consume large quantities of over-wintering eggs of other species etc. It tends to form autumnal gatherings of large numbers, and can invade houses. Its reflex-bleeding produces copious fluid that stains soft furnishings in houses; and its aggregations can damage fruit crops. All in all, it is likely to be a bit of a menace.

The Harlequin first appeared in 2004, and so this recording project was aimed at capturing its arrival in a way that has never been done before by any recording scheme for a new species. During 2005, the initial receipt of records was slow, with confirmation of its occurrence in places where it had first appeared in 2004, such as London and Essex. A few new sightings were reported. However, it is now building momentum, and parts of London are being infested with the beetle, thousands being present on trees around Euston and Battersea, for example. It is increasingly being found elsewhere across the south and east (with the odd outlier elsewhere), and is still apparently being spread accidentally by the plant trade.

Spectabillis.jpg

form spectabillis

The colonisation of the country will take a couple of years or so, and therefore the Project has just applied through the NBN Trust for an extension of its funding. Hopefully this will allow the survey to continue at its current, active level throughout next season. The data from this will show us a detailed picture of how these invasions take place, and might (just might) give us some clues how to stop other damaging invasions in the future!

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form conspicua

Illustrations of the Harlequin Ladybird, showing the large variation in its colour and patterning (photos.: copyright: Mike Majerus).

Harlequindist.JPG

Distribution map from the NBN Gateway (October 2005)

BUGLIFE Project :Sustainable Management of Soft Rock Cliffs and their Invertebrate Biodiversity

See www.buglife.org.uk

Maritime soft rock cliffs and slopes are home to a number of rare insects, spiders and other invertebrates. This UK BAP Priority Habitat is not just important for individual species, it is also the incredible diversity of invertebrates of these sites which makes them so significant.

Buglife have been awarded funding by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for a three year project which aims to: inform and initiate the measures required for the sustainable management of the UK’s soft rock cliff invertebrate biodiversity, in the context of a changing marine environment and the management of cliff top habitats. This project aims to discover just how important soft rock cliffs are for invertebrates in the UK and how to safeguard these rare habitats and their invertebrate inhabitants for the future.

Tiger.jpg © Andrew Whitehouse

The Cliff Tiger beetle Cicindela germanica is one of five native tiger beetles in the UK. This species is nationally rare and is only found on the warm, south facing soft cliffs of Dorset, Devon and the Isle of Wight. The adults are fast running predators and can be seen running over bare ground or sparsely vegetated areas. The larvae are found in burrows in damp sand.

The information produced by this project will provide an essential resource for the future sustainable management of soft rock cliffs and their immediate surroundings in the UK. This project will audit the existing soft rock cliff habitat resource in the UK, and identify the most important sites for invertebrate biodiversity. A second component will analyse the relationships between invertebrate biodiversity, habitat types, and coastal management. The resulting management recommendations will enable better informed coastal defence policy and environmental land management schemes.

This past summer Buglife have been working in partnership with Dorset Environmental Records Centre (DERC) on an in-depth study of the cliffs and slopes of the Dorset coast, and with Southampton University and other partners on a study of the ecology of the Isle of Wight Chines. Over the next two years it hopes to be working on surveying other soft cliffs around the country; including a project in Yorkshire in partnership with North and East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre and the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union.

If you know of any survey data that you have and are able to contribute to this project then Buglife will be very interested to hear from you.

For further information please contact: Andrew Whitehouse andrew.whitehouse@buglife.org.uk

PLEASE NOTE: Soft rock cliffs are home to a fantastic invertebrate fauna; however these sites are also dangerous, unstable and unpredictable, please do not venture onto the cliffs and slopes unless you are an experienced cliff surveyor

“The Beetles of Surrey: a Checklist” by Dr Jonty Denton

Review by Trevor James, NBN Development Officer

This A4, soft-covered publication is number 1 in the Surrey County Checklist Series being produced by the Surrey Wildlife Trust, and available from them at School Lane, Pirbright, Woking, Surrey, GU24 0JN. ISBN no.: 0 9526065 8 5. Price: £7.50.

Being the County Beetle Recorder for both Hampshire and Surrey is daunting enough, but Jonty Denton is also the voluntary national scheme organiser for both the Scirtidae and the Stenini tribe of the great family Staphylinidae, so he has his work cut out.

This book is pretty well exactly what it says – largely a summarised checklist of the species of beetle recorded from the Watsonian vice-county of Surrey (VC 17), with brief, one-line entries summarising the occurrence of the species, firstly in the Victoria County History standard list for Surrey (1902), the period 1902-1950; and for records during the period 1951-2004. The latter also gives an indication of whether the beetle has been seen after 1980 or not. There is then a brief statement about status (including national designations), habitat, occurrence, and frequency, giving specific localities for the rarest species, including, but not limited to those with recognised nationally scarce or rare status. We even find out about the sub-fossil species recorded. The introductory sections and appendices are succinct but very useful, including a table of the numbers of beetle species recorded by family, broken down to show the number of scarce species, those with current records etc.; a brief gazetteer of principal localities (with a map); and another map giving a breakdown of species-richness by tetrad. A short bibliography, list of principal contributors, and a page on collecting, with a glossary of terms and contacts round off the introductory section. At the back there is also a couple of appendices, giving some further detail about problematic records, and about species left out for one reason or another. Unusually it also lists species found in adjoining counties not so far recorded from Surrey.

This production is obviously just a taster. Jonty tells us that he intends to produce a series of atlases of different groups, starting with the water beetles. The ladybirds were published by Roger Hawkins separately in 2000.

This book is a mine of information for those that need to use and want to know about beetle data. Beetles as a group are patchily accounted for across the UK, and the recording network is rather uneven. But the group is highly important as habitat indicators, particularly of detailed habitat quality. This book, therefore, is a highly significant publication, allowing more attention to be paid to God’s preferred beasties (with apologies to the late Dr Haldane)!

PLANTATT a new book published by CEH

For those of you who have become acquainted with Ellenberg’s Indicator Values for the British flora, this very useful book which costs just £6 is a much improved version of the original tables published by CEH. A downloadable version is also available at www.brc.gov,uk in both .pdf and Excel formats. The title page describes the book as the attributes of British and Irish Plants: Status, Size, Life History, Geography and Habitats for use in connection with the New atlas of the British and Irish flora. Having started using Ellenberg Indicator values in reports last year, I found that puzzling features of a site could be explained quite well, using attributes from these tables.

CEH, Monks Wood, Abbotts Ripton, Huntingdon PE28 2LS (01487 772400).

John Newbould

Charity Commission : Recent Changes

John Newbould

A number of NFBR members work under registered charity status. The Charity Commission has recently revised CC3 Responsibilities of Trustees. This may be downloaded from the web, but the document is now 40 pages with full colour illustrations. My advice is to order copies from the Charity Commission on 0870333 0123. Copies are limited to five for each charity.

The Charity Commission website www.charity-commission.gov.uk has recently issued a policy statement on Charities and Public Service Delivery. This is a five- page download, which provides a draft policy statement on this subject. In general the document is not contentious stating that Charities should only engage in activities that are within their objective. Charities must be independent and Trustees must only act in the interests of the charity and its beneficiaries. Trustees must show a duty of care and act prudently.

There is a paragraph on independence. Trustees who are appointed at the behest of a funding provider must act in the best interest of the Charity. The document goes on to say that trustees have a duty to use Charity assets effectively

The Charity should always aim to recover the full cost of delivering services for public authorities including administrative and overhead or “core” costs.

The advice given states that trustees must be informed by the level of responsibility an authority has to provide the service asking whether there is an absolute legal responsibility for an authority to provide a service.

A Treasury Cross Cutting Review has identified how some practices in procurement or contracting transfer financial risks onto charities. The Commission is aiming to encourage better practice by both charities and public authorities in contract negotiation and procurement of public services. It suggests that charities should be treated as equal partners and not have terms imposed on them. The Charity Commission is engaging on a public consultation and I suggest that it would like to hear of your experiences.

Hedgerow Surveys

John Newbould

In 2002, Defra published a standard procedure for local surveys of hedges in the UK (Bickmore, 2002). How has the procedure worked out in practice? Nick Button from the Dorset Environmental Records Centre introduced me to the technique during the field trials in 2001. Nick surveyed over 300 hedges as part of a Defracontract, which allowed a comparison with datacollected by Professor Good in Dorset during the late 1930s. (Button, 2003)

In practice, the form has four A5 pages, which neatly go back to back on one A4 sheet. The form is generally well structured and easy to follow with provision made to collect data on most of the important information required. Page 1 asks for the usual where, when and by whom along with information on the context of the hedge within the countryside. The main problem I have found obtaining the required data is a difficulty seeing the end of the hedge to look at connections. Bends along a road or undulating country may mean walking some distance to find an end. At the foot of the page, one row of boxes asks for information on the number of hedgerow trees. There is space to ask if any have a girth >3.2m which would be of interest when collecting data on potential veteran trees (Read, 2000). The only other difficulty I have found is that even if the surveyor uses a GPS meter, the grid reference is often inaccurate when plotting the data on a 1:2500 OS map.

Page 2 asks about features associated with the hedge. This information is very valuable to a land manager and could easily be associated with a cost/ benefit analysis of hedge management. Tow problems have arisen from using this page. The first one is that there is no box for a double hedge, nor does the instruction book feature such a structure. During May, 2005, during surveying the National Trust’s Golden Cap Estate, I started to record a Blackthorn hedge. Whilst measuring the 30m, I came to a gap and looked inside the hedge, where a hedge bank was found with a species rich ground flora. There is no guidance on how to deal with such a hedge. In other instances, I have been inside what is undoubtedly a double hedge, but where do we draw the boundary between a double hedge and two hedges opposite each other? A second problem is that the surveyor is asked to give the average height and width. Following discussion with Bryan Edwards of DERC, we wonder if range would be a better measure. When surveying, I have been surprised at the amount of barbed wire used when a simple old fashioned laying technique would stop up many gaps.

Page 3 asks for records of the woody features in 30m with shrub layer being recorded by the Domin score of cover, whilst the trees are recorded by number. Domin for trees is also important, especially if the land manager wants to fill gaps. There would be some merit in listing more species rather than putting Lime (Tilia sp.), Oak (Quercus sp) etc. as this would make the scoring easier when entering data sets into a data base. There is adequate space to combine the two lists and have three columns at the side of each list. There is space to record fauna and other features, but limited space and I would suggest that the surveyor numbers each form before surveying and records additional information on birds, butterflies etc. in a structured manner elsewhere, referenced to the form.

Page 4 deals with the ground flora. The form is split into grasses, herbs, climbers and ferns. The 66 species are inadequate and I regularly add at least five species including Lesser Celandine. A winter task is to compile my own page 4. Data is collected using the Domin scale in the form of 2 x 1 m quadrats at 10m and 20m. I do find that this does not necessarily collect all the ground flora data representative of the 30m stretch and tick all species present in the 30m stretch as well.

An excellent handbook is provided which may be down loaded as four .pdf files from the English Nature website. Alternatively if you visit farmland.conservation@defra.gsi.gov.uk or telephone 020 7238 5668 Defra will supply a photocopy. The only difficulty I found with this handbook was that the crucial forms were blurred. However, Defra provided good copies within three working days when requested. The handbook provides a reasonable summary of the current hedgerow regulations and forms for completing a survey to that standard. The Hedgerow Regulations are being reviewed, and may change in the future.

What data are available to compare the results of your survey? Visit the Countryside Survey at www.cs.2000.org.uk/M01_tables/reports. (Haines –Young et.al.. 2000)

I have a number of datasets from Yorkshire and Dorset, which may be used. I would be interested to hear from other people who are using this survey technique to exchange results for comparison and find out their problems, successes etc.

References.

Bickmore, C. (2002) Hedgerow Survey Handbook: A standard procedure for local surveys in the UK. (Draft). Countryside Council for Wales. Button, N. (2003). Dorsets Changing Hedgebanks. A re-survey of Professor Good’s Hedgebanks. Dorset Environmental Records Centre, Dorchester Haines-Young, R.H., Barr, C.J., Black, H.I.J., Briggs, D.J., Bunce, R.G.H., Clark, R.T., Cooper, A., Dawson, F.H., Firbank,L.G., Fuller,R.M., Furse, M.T., Gillespie, M.K., Hill, R., Hornung, M, Howard, D.C., McCann,T., Morecroft, M.D., Petit,S., Sier, A.R.J., Smart, S.M., Smith, G.M., Stott, A.P., Stuart, R.C., and Watkins, J.W. (2000) Accounting for nature: assessing habitats in the UK countryside. D.E.T.R., London Read, H. (2000) Veteran Trees: A guide to good management. English Nature, Peterborough.

Hedge.jpg

A double hedge at Lochwinoch, John Newbould

The Design Project for Recorder Web

Charles Copp, NFBR Chairman

This paper describes the design work that has been carried out on an exciting extension to Recorder 6, that will allow people to record and access their records over the Internet via a web browser. The principle behind the design work was to create a flexible set of tools that can be used to create on-line personalised recording cards for a wide range of users including individual specialists, species recording cards for local surveys (e.g. a local flora) and simple graphical recording interfaces for promoting public participation (e.g. with pictures of common species).

Fig1.jpg

Figure 1 Recorder Web prototype screens, demonstrating how the interface can be adapted to fit the target user - here showing an example of a custom report selection screen aimed at children and a survey data entry card that might be used by naturalists. [Yes, we know the taxonomy is dubious – it was a programmer’s prototype!]

Recorder 6 is the latest, more powerful version of Recorder, aimed at Local Record Centre and equivalent use. The Recorder application supports so-called addins, which are extra modules that extend its functionality. In Luxembourg’s National Museum of Natural History, an addin is used to extend Recorder into a powerful collections management tool (the Collections Module), and to enable the recording of earth science field observations. It is now possible to offer a completely integrated system for capturing and managing information from both field observations and specimen collections across the whole range of natural sciences. For example, specimens of fossils, minerals and rocks can be catalogued and their field gathering information also recorded and linked to field gathered data such as measured sections. The new Internet module, currently called Recorder Web, adds interactive Internet access to this capability.

Recorder Web is an Internet based extension of Recorder 6 and is intended to address the following needs:

· The need for a flexible toolkit for organisations seeking to set up a website for data input and reporting linked to Recorder. This includes museums or LRCs setting up simple recording front-ends for school age visitors and other members of the public as well as more specialised services for naturalists. · Meeting the need for an on-line biodiversity data entry system for individuals who do not wish to use or do not have access to the desktop version of Recorder. · Making simple individualised reporting and distribution mapping available for users without any of the complexities of desktop Recorder.

The design team comprised Charles Copp, Stuart Ball of JNCC, Alistair McClean of Sheffield Museum, staff from the Luxembourg National Museum of Natural History and staff of Dorset Software Limited (the company responsible for building Recorder). The design project was funded by the Luxembourg National Museum of Natural History with contributions in time and travel from JNCC and Sheffield Museums. Recorder 6 and Recorder Web constitute a powerful piece of software that is intended to run on Microsoft SQL Server database. For the web software to run, the server installation also requires Microsoft Internet Information Services and .Net Framework version 1.1.

Recorder Web interfaces to the Recorder 6 Quick Data Entry system. The Quick Entry system allows the creation and use of data entry templates to enter both specimens and observation data. Data entered in the quick entry system are not posted into the main database until they have been checked and validated, making it ideal for quarantining data entered on the web. Creation of data entry forms and reviewing of data entered on the web is performed by the system administrator, using the Recorder Quick Entry system.

The proposed system is configurable for different types of user. Most users will log in to their own account, which holds only their records, private to them and the system administrator. The user can add or edit records for as long as they like before submitting them. Once submitted, the records are passed through the standard LRC and Recorder validation methods and imported into the main LRC/Museum database. Users can still access submitted records for reporting purposes.

Recorder Web uses a recording card metaphor, that is, each user may be involved in one or more surveys and each survey is represented by a series of cards, displayed on screen as a series of tab headings (see Figure 1). For field records, each card represents one recording event. Record cards can be viewed either in spreadsheet format or as fields on a form. One useful feature is that record cards can be used off-line, which creates a spreadsheet file that can be imported into Web Recorder when convenient. This is good for users who do not have broadband access and opens up the potential for entry of records on hand-held computers or PDAs in the field.

To the user, Recorder Web appears as a single web site, although technically it is a composite of several web applications, each supported by a number of web services. The following diagram (Figure 2) illustrates how the parts relate to each other. This certainly looks very complicated and is the reason why the cost of building Recorder Web will be more than might be expected (people tend to think it entails nothing more than creating a few web forms). It is also the reason why Recorder Web will be so powerful and flexible. It will have access to all the validation routines and dictionaries of Recorder but will be very flexible in the way it is set up and used, allowing for unlimited numbers of recording forms designed for different surveys or even individuals and options to link to other outside web services such as different mapping services or other on-line databases.

Fig2.jpg

Figure 2: Recorder Web will be a ‘server-side’ application, which means the on-line user will not have to have any software loaded on their machine other than a web browser (of their choice). The user communicates with the Recorder quick data entry system and the main database through inter-connected web pages that call programmes (web services) able to send and receive data.

The concept is that an LRC or museum will be able to set its own look and feel to its web site and probably have more than one interface e.g. one for staff, one for confident specialist recorders and another for simple data gathering from the public or simple surveys. Different jobs are handled by web applications (pages), such as one that handles secure logging in, another that handles recording cards, another for printed reports and another for presenting distribution maps. These applications send messages and data to web services that handle the data or provide responses e.g. a distribution map of the data that a user has just entered overlain onto a map of what is already on the LRC database and perhaps national data derived from the NBN Gateway. A separate site structure service keeps a tag on all the services that are on the site and which ones are available to the user. The ordinary user sees none of this, only a single web site that is tailored to their needs.

For very simple displays and data gathering exercises, a museum, for instance, might have a touch-screen display with pictures and icons such that visitors will not be aware that they are using a complex database at all. This approach will be piloted in Sheffield Museums in their forthcoming new galleries where visitors will be able to locate places of interest on a map and see what occurs there.

Recorder Web will have simple reporting capabilities built in but specialist reports and analyses can be created, stored, and then linked to specific surveys or types of data. In this way, all users will have access to basic universal reports (e.g. species for a site or sites for a species) but there is the opportunity to develop bespoke products, deliverable over the web (e.g. monthly bird reports, annual butterfly atlas, phenological analyses etc.). Basic mapping will be included (see Figure 3) with the ability to change base maps and scales and use of different mapping icons. Because Recorder Web uses web services, it will be possible to extend the mapping functionality by calling external web GIS and mapping services to display a whole variety of map types and allowing a degree of on-line GIS analysis of data.

Fig3.jpg

Figure 3: Recorder Web prototype map report showing controls on the left hand side and a zoom-able map on the right. A menu allows the changing of the base map e.g. to a geological one and the user can control size and colour of icons.

When will we get it?

The design work is all done and all we have to do now is pay to have it built – not such a small task, as professional programming and testing for applications of this complexity costs many thousands of pounds. Sheffield Museums are taking a step with the building of a specific public gallery version (which will not include the full tool-kit capability) and Luxembourg National Museum of Natural History has applied for funding for the main work. We are of course, open to offers from anyone who would like to be part of the project. The project is a collaborative one and the more people involved in funding and testing it, the better it will be, and the greater the chance it has of a sustainable future.

I think this piece of software is a very important one. It represents the future for collaborative on-line recording and is where the Recorder project needs to be heading. Recorder 2002 and Recorder 6 are just too complex and intimidating for ordinary users and its support has been woeful. It is however, the software that serious collators of diverse data (i.e. LRCs and Museums) should be using, because it is based on NBN standards and was designed for the purpose. Recorder Web will link in to all that power but provide users with a simple, personalised interface and it will not even need to be loaded on their machines.

Developments in the NBN: Web-Services and their potential uses

Trevor James, NBN Development Officer

Now that the NBN Gateway has “bedded down” as a means of finding data, and people are beginning to realise that it can be used for them to make their information available relatively straightforwardly, the NBN team is turning to the next phase of development that will hopefully make it more useful to a broader range of people (and as a result, we hope, allow even more data to become available).

The main drawback of the NBN Gateway at the moment is that it is a stand-alone website. Fine for checking what data there might be for a particular species, or for drilling down to a specific area and querying against a map, but it remains a separate “tool” on your computer desktop. Admittedly, if you have been given the necessary permission to access the right level of resolution of a particular dataset, you can download data in response to a query, and you can then fiddle about with it to your heart’s content in a spreadsheet, import it into your desktop database etc. (as long as you don’t pass it on to someone else!). However, the NBN Trust has recognised for some time that, if this is to become an integrated part of the way people work, then the data from the Gateway needs to be “piped” into the things they mainly use on their desktops more effectively. The data also need to be integrated with other things, like websites.

This is where the planned NBN web-services come in. Over the next few months, the Gateway team will be focusing on developing initially two of these services:

Grid-mapping

The Gateway already delivers grid-maps at various scales (10km, tetrad, 1km and 100m), depending at what level of detail the original data are, and what level of access the user has to those data. The aim of the web-service is to be able to receive the relevant “dots” and to overlay them on a background map of your own design within a tailored website. So, for example, if a national society wants to display its own data dynamically through its website to show a 10km distribution map of a species, this could be delivered to the website by the NBN Gateway (as well as, of course, still delivering the data elsewhere in different ways for others to use). These maps need not be just 10km dots. If the original data are detailed enough, then tetrad or 1km maps would be possible as well, say for just a single vice-county. So, we could have a website with a national 10km map for a species, and detailed tetrad maps for the same species within counties, all derived dynamically from the same dataset.

As a minimum, the specification for developing this service will allow:

  • the user to specify the species they want to map;
  • the user to be able to filter which dataset(s) are to be used to build the map;
  • the data returned by the Gateway to include details of grid reference, date and the associated metadata with the records;
  • the service would return the URL for the specified map to the user;
  • the service would return the actual grid co-ordinates for the image, so that it can be plotted in conjunction with locally-sourced mapping;
  • the user would be able to limit the image to a specified vice-county.

Other capabilities are potentially planned to be developed later, such as delivering maps for other areas defined by the user, or the capability to vary the resolution of the data live, or plotting up to three date-classes of records.

Records for a user-defined polygon

The ability for data from the Gateway to be delivered for use within a user’s desk-top GIS will be a major leap forward for many organisations that might want to access data from the Gateway. The NBN Trust also hopes that this capability will appeal especially to local records centres and act as an encouragement for them to mobilise their data through the Gateway so that these data (and others from third parties) can be delivered to their customers’ GIS direct, as well as to their own systems. This would bring the dream of integrating data from diverse sources for immediate use that much nearer realisation.

The planned web-service has as its minimum present specification:

the user to be able to post a polygon, with defined XY co-ordinates (and specify a co-ordinate system, such as OSGB), to the NBN Gateway;

  • The user to be able alternatively to post either a bounding box or a circle based on a grid point to the Gateway;
  • The user would be able to define the datasets used in the search;
  • The user could define which species are being searched for;
  • The user’s access levels to be checked against the data being requested.
  • The service to return a list of species names and associated data relevant to the posted polygon for use within the user’s GIS;
  • The service would be able to toggle between data at different levels of access permission, to allow for both viewing and downloading.

A prototype of the system has been built (and works well) for use in ArcGIS, and this will be built first as a standard tool. There are also plans to do the same for MapInfo.

Additional features being considered include: being able to filter for data that either overlap or fall entirely within a polygon; queries might be able to query data at one level of resolution at a time (to avoid blurred data); and date ranges might be specified for the data being returned.

Other possible services

Other, possibly less immediately obvious services have been identified for potential future supply, depending on funding and calls for them to be developed:

  • A list of species that the Gateway holds data for (potentially filtered to specific groups)
  • A list of sites on the Gateway within specified administrative areas (e.g. sites in a Region)
  • A list of administrative boundary layers available from the Gateway.
  • A list of the species datasets available from the Gateway (filtered for particular groups, or for particular geographical areas)
  • The ability to download species data direct into a GIS (with the ability to select species as well as the required datasets and date range).

All these services depend on both ongoing funding for their development, and on priorities. The two key services are to be developed, hopefully, by March 2006, and the NBN Trust, with Defra backing, is supporting one or two development projects with partners to utilise these and facilitate their development. If others are interested in the potential for them, please get in touch with Andy Brewer in the NBN Trust team.

Those interested in the services have also been asked to sign up to a Web-services Smartgroup, in order to get feedback on both the current as well as future potential services that the Gateway might be able to deliver. If anyone wants to sign up to this Smartgroup that has not already done so, the link is: nbn_services-subscribe@smartgroups.com

Wales LRCs update

Adam Rowe

adam.rowe@sewbrec.org.uk

The Biodiversity Information Service for Powys & Brecon Beacons National Park has moved to new offices in September [First Floor Offices, Coliseum House, 7 Wheat Street, Brecon, Powys LD3 7DG T: 01874 610881. F: 01874 624812].

The South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre has completed its ‘establishment phase’ and entered the ‘running phase’ on 01 August 2005. The future is bright, as long as outstanding SLAs can be achieved in the coming 1-2 months. Very high demand from commercial users.

Cofnod: The North Wales Environmental Information Centre: Roy Tapping (ex CCW) took up LRC Manager post in July 2005. Good

 

support for ‘establishment phase’ from Unitary Authority and other partners. Move to independent premises and staff recruitment imminent.

West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre: Dr Rob Davies took up post as LRC Officer in July. He has produced a draft Development Plan and is currently conducting presentations to potential funders with a view to starting an ‘establishment phase’ from April 2006.

Discussions are also underway with a number of agencies and organisations who are keen to engage with the Welsh LRCs (in some cases, once the network is complete). These include the Wales Tourist Board, the Regional Trunk Road Agencies (National Assembly for Wales) and Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water

Further News from LRCs around the Regions

SE England & London LRCs :

The Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre

Nicky Court(nicky.court.hbic@hants.gov.uk)

HBIC has :

Produced a new Business Plan for 2005 to 2008 and secured finances for next 3 years with a 20% increase in Local Authority fees to help reduce small running deficit. Successfully bid to HLF for a Project Planning Grant – to prepare an Audience Development Plan (ADP) and an IT Development plan to inform a full bid HLF. The ADP which is being produced by Just Ecology will be investigating the data needs of the wider community and the needs of existing & potential volunteer recorders

The Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre

Has appointed a new Manager – Martin Harvey, previously Data Officer at the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Martin took up the post at the end of April

 

South West England LRCs

Bill Butcher, SERC

info@somerc.com

All LRCs are contributing to an English Nature commissioned project on Developing Habitat Inventory Custodianship Methodologies for England.

All LRCs have contributed to Regional Nature Map development for Regional Biodiversity Partnership and Regional Spatial Strategy.

Gloucestershire Records Centre still has resource problems with overstretched staff.

Devon Biodiversity Records Centre is still without a manager.

SERC has completed a SEA Common Baseline for its County Council.

CEDaR (Northern Ireland)

Damian McFerran

damien.mcferran@magni.gov.uk

CEDaR have :

Appointed GIS/Database and Web Officers

Secured NBN Trust funding to pilot Harlequin

Ladybird survey throughout NI. Feeds into national project.

Constructed web pages for Alien/Invasive and Priority species.

Secured funding to initiate all Ireland Lichen survey.

Sought BSBI partnership for all Ireland Orchid survey.

Undertaken Marine training workshop.

Placed Literature database on the web project for comment.

Secured funding to facilitate production of 'The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland'.

Minutes of the 18th Annual General Meeting

Held at Swallow St George Hotel, Harrogate on Friday 4th March 2005 at 13.20

Present: Chairman – Charles Copp, Secretary – Paul Harding, seven other members of Council, and fourteen other NFBR members.

1. Apologies for absence Received from: Bill Butcher, Nicky Court, Richard Fox, Adam Rowe, Simon Wood, Mike Weideli, Steve Whitbread.

2. Minutes of the 17th Annual General Meeting held on 2nd July 2004 The meeting approved the Minutes of the 17th AGM as published in NFBR Newsletter 32, without correction, nem. con. – Proposed: John Newbould; Seconded: Trevor James.

3. Chairman’s Report for 2004/2005 Chairman referred to his paper NFBR; past, present and future (NFBR Newsletter 32).

4. Annual Accounts and Treasurer’s Report Secretary, on behalf of the Treasurer, presented the Annual Accounts for the year ending 31 December 2004 (attached), which had been approved by the Independent Examiner. He highlighted the following : : The end of year net balance was £5767.74; A surplus of income over expenditure of £180.87; The 2003 annual conference made a loss of £543.57; The LRC conference made a loss of £146.30; Commissioned work on the LRC database showed a small profit; Some subscriptions for 2004 were still outstanding.

The Annual Accounts were proposed from the Chair and were accepted by the meeting nem. con.

5. Election of Honorary Officers and Council for 2005/2006 The following were nominated by Council to serve as Honorary Officers for the year 2005/2006: Chairman : Charles Copp Secretary :Paul Harding Treasurer : Vacant - Council proposes to co-opt Mike Weideli Membership Secretary : John Newbould Newsletter Editor : Nicky Court Website Manager :Nick Moyes

There being no other nominations, their election en bloc was proposed from the Chair and was approved by the meeting nem. con.

The following were nominated by Council to serve as Members of Council for the year 2005/2006: Henri Brocklebank ,Bill Butcher, Richard Fox, Trevor James, Damian McFerran, Adam Rowe, Simon Pickles, Mandy Rudd, Darwyn Sumner, Steve Whitbread, Simon Wood Proposed: Craig Slawson; Seconded: Paul Harding

There being no other nominations, their election en bloc was proposed from the Chair and was approved by the meeting nem. con.

Council gave notice that it intended to invite Stuart Ball, Craig Slawson and Mike Weideli to be co-opted onto Council, to continue to invite a representative of BRISC to be co-opted onto Council and to invite a representative of NatSCA to be co-opted onto Council.

6. Any other business On behalf of the meeting Chairman thanked Henri Brocklebank, Mandy Rudd and John Newbould for organising the Harrogate Conference and Nicky Court for editing Newsletter 32.

The meeting closed at 1345. Paul T Harding, NFBR Secretary