Lake at dawn

Why Record WildLife?

There are already strong signs that processes such as increasing population, changing land use and global warming are affecting our wildlife and countryside. Yet environmental change is nothing new - we are used hearing that things were 'different' in our parents time - particularly weather and landuse. So how much of the change is real and how much apocryphal? And how much of an effect will it have?

UK Species

In the past few decades we have witnessed some dramatic changes in the countryside - think garden birds, butterflies, trees and many other 'everyday' species. Today's success stories are often won as a result of concerted action, and many other tales echo a recurring theme of decline. The latest report on The State of Nature in the UK makes unsettling reading, and there is little doubt that over the coming years wildlife will face more significant challenges. But how can we decide which places, animals or plants need particular attention or protection, and which will thrive without undue interference?

Surveying at Helford

It is only by comparing records of species - where, when and how many individuals have been seen - that we can begin to piece together a comprehensive picture of our national wildlife. By collating all the available information and comparing things like regional differences and year-on-year trends, we can begin to understand why some populations are stable and some are not, and gain a feeling of which ecosystems are healthy and which are at risk. Biodiversity is currently our best measure of environmental health - there has probably never been a greater need to know how species are faring.

Marine montage

Scientists can use computers to store and process vast amounts of wildlife information - but they need lots of valid data to recognise patterns. And the surprising thing is that a lot of this information already exists, in the body of countless countryside and wildlife enthusiasts - people who quietly note changes in local wildlife and environment on a day-to-day basis. Like farming, learning about wildlife is something that needs a lot of time in the field. In many cases the distinction between 'amateur' and 'professional' naturalists is entirely arbitrary - I am frequently astonished by the quality and precision of observations by self-taught naturalists.

The next generation of recorders

Everyday species are often key indicators of change, as they occur frequently enough for changes to be readily apparent, and are easily recognised by many people. Starlings, lapwings, hedgehogs, garden tiger moths and small tortoiseshell butterflies are all examples of relatively common species which have experienced dramatic declines in recent years. By learning to recognise your local species and recording their comings and goings, and by passing your observations to local and national recording schemes, you can contribute to the larger picture.

And perhaps your help will ensure the survival of something you treasure.