The Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre (WSBRC) provides a central point for biological and geological information for Wiltshire and Swindon Borough. We are a small team of staff (presently 2.6 FTE) supported by several volunteers who collate, manage and interpret wildlife records, habitat data and site survey information from a wide range of organisations, volunteer recording groups and individuals and make these widely available. We manage a database containing over 1.2 million records to which we now add over 100,000 records each year thanks to our fantastic data suppliers.
The WSBRC is hosted by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust as a not-for-profit partnership whose other stakeholders include Natural England, the Environment Agency, the local authorities and the network of County Recorders. We have been operating since 1975 and and as a member of the Association of Local Environmental Records Centres (ALERC) since 2009 we are part of a national network of Local Records Centres (LRCs).
Why do we gather this information?
By bringing a variety of environmental information together and interpreting it, an overall picture of the status and distribution of different habitats and species becomes apparent. If this information is collected systematically over time, real changes in the health of our natural world can be monitored and accurately assessed. The data we hold plays a fundamental role in ensuring that important areas for biodiversity are taken into account when considering plans for new developments or change of land use. Statutory agencies have legal responsibilities for regulating activities that may harm the natural environment, particularly where they might affect habitats, sites or species that are protected under UK or European legislation. The WSBRC provides a ‘planning screen’ service for our local planning authorities that identifies applications where such considerations apply.
The information we provide also helps environmental organisations and land managers to target their activities more effectively – a vital consideration when resources are limited. Find out how the Environment Agency (EA) uses our data. The WSBRC also supports a variety of projects and programmes through data management and provision of raw and interpreted data products.
Where do our records come from?
Information for habitats, sites and species are obtained from a wide variety of sources including paid surveyors, commissioned surveys and data provided by other voluntary and statutory organisations; but most species records are collected by volunteers. These provide the bulk of the WSBRC's species records and we support our recorders with guidance on best practice in biological recording and providing resources, such as equipment, where possible. A network of approved volunteer experts, the County Recorders, provide us with most specialist records and undertake verification our records but we also rely upon general recorders to keep us up-to-date on what is happening in the county. After all, no-one starts off as an expert!