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The opportunities for semi-structured and effort recording to enhance the value of biological recording by volunteers 2022

Corporate JNCC Publications UK Biodiversity Monitoring Species Status Surveillance and Monitoring


Biological recording is essential for monitoring changes in the distribution and abundance of species. To effectively use any collected information for monitoring purposes, there are five core principles of biological recording schemes: representative sampling locations; an adequate sample size; sufficient detection of the target species; recording a representative sample of species present (or all species); and a long-term sampling strategy that enables valid inference of change.

Citizen science is increasingly seen by researchers and policy-makers as a cost-effective method of gathering biological records, and can make substantial contributions to biological recording through the voluntary collection of species occurrence data for recording schemes. Voluntary engagement in environmental monitoring encompasses a spectrum from ‘mass participation’ to ‘scientific sampling’, which can alternatively be described as the variation between ‘opportunistic’ or ‘unstructured’ recording towards more ‘structured’ recording. Structured and unstructured recording each have advantages, but they also have disadvantages. In particular, structured recording typically requires high levels of commitment from volunteers and is therefore limited in how many locations and taxa can be included, whereas data from unstructured recording can cover a much wider range of taxa and locations but can be challenging to analyse.

In this report, we explore the use of recording approaches that lie between the two extremes of the spectrum, and consider how these approaches are beneficial for biological recording, if they are feasible for volunteers, and how they could be implemented by recording schemes or organisations in the UK.

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Resource type Publication

Topic category Environment

Reference date 2022·07·01

Broughton, R.K. & Pocock, M J.O. 2022. The opportunities for semi-structured and effort recording to enhance the value of biological recording by volunteers. JNCC, Peterborough.

This work was supported by the Terrestrial Surveillance Development and Analysis (TSDA) partnership of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, British Trust for Ornithology and JNCC, and by the Natural Environment Research Council award number NE/R016429/1, as part of the UK-SCAPE programme delivering National Capability.

Responsible organisation
Communications, JNCC publisher

Limitations on public access No limitations

Use constraints Available under the Open Government Licence 3.0

Metadata date 2022·07·08

Metadata point of contact
Communications, JNCC

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