Biological data is at the heart of environmental protection

22 Mar 2019

Guest blog by Rachel Tierney, Development Officer for the Scottish Biodiversity Information Forum

Over 25 million biological records have been collected in Scotland, describing the location of 5,866 species. And behind each of these records is a biological recorder whose expertise has helped document our natural world.

Together, these thousands of recorders, often volunteers who generously donate their time, stand on the shoulders of many generations of Scottish naturalists, all fascinated in understanding and recording our natural world. Their curiosity has made Scotland one of the most comprehensively surveyed countries on Earth.

Yet despite this vast wealth of information and knowledge, Scotland’s biodiversity continues to be threatened, or subject to poor decision making.

Indeed, it is fair to say that these millions of records are an incomplete account, temporally, taxonomically and spatially. And the records we have are not being worked hard enough to protect our natural world, as the organisations involved with the collection, management and sharing of biodiversity data are vastly under-resourced.

Joining together

The willingness to collaborate to protect our natural world, however, has never been stronger. During 2017, over 120 organisations, many of whom are also behind the Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign, came together through the Scottish Biodiversity Information Forum (SBIF) Review of the Biological Recording Infrastructure in Scotland to consider how we can fix these problems to improve our access to knowledge of Scotland’s biodiversity.

The SBIF Review explored how we currently collect, manage and use wildlife data. In particular, how we can transform Scotland’s biological recording infrastructure – covering both land, freshwaters and seas – to make all of Scotland’s biodiversity information publicly available. The SBIF Review culminated in 24 recommendations and funding proposals, aimed at increasing the sustainability of the biodiversity sector, improving geographical and taxonomic data coverage, and ensuring that information is sufficiently up-to-date and accessible to inform action for the people and wildlife of Scotland.

Linking it all up

If we are to truly understand and protect our natural world for future generations, we need proper monitoring of and reporting on the state of the environment, and adequate resources to support the organisations and volunteers involved in collecting, managing and growing our invaluable trove of environmental data. This is why SBIF are supporting Fight for Scotland’s Nature’s call for a Scottish Environment Act.

A Scottish Environment Act must set clear and ambitious targets for environmental protection, with well-informed, responsive decision making based on sound evidence. Access to robust biodiversity data, together with transparent analysis and interpretation, is key to the effective protection of our environment.

We must join together, linking those individuals volunteering their time and expertise to monitor Scotland’s biodiversity with organisations who are able to implement strategic, long term protection for Scotland’s wildlife.

A sustainably funded, integrated biological recording network, embedded in the heart of an Environment Act for Scotland will place Scotland as a global leader for environmental protection.

What are your views on the future of environmental protections in Scotland? Join us in calling for a Scottish Environment Act – send an email to the Scottish Government.

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