Pioneering Welsh Environmental Network celebrated 10th anniversary with 10 MILLION wildlife records

High Brown Fritillary Butterfly: ©Gary Welsby

A pioneering species, habitat and nature sites service has celebrated 10 years of collaboration and its 10 millionth biological record last week at a special event in Carmarthen.

The work of the Local Environmental Records Centres was showcased at University of Wales Trinity St David (UWTSD) on Friday, July 14th 2017 with the launch of digital tools to assist professionals in accessing this important data which pinpoints the biodiversity of Wales by collating recordings of species sightings by individual biological recorders.

Speaking at the launch which was held on July 14 2017, Colin Russell, Manager of West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre said: “Today marks a decade of efforts across Wales by both professionals and volunteers tasked with recording our unique biodiversity. Without knowing what’s out there, we can’t take the action required to protect our natural environment and the diversity of species. The work in the field by dedicated volunteers and professionals combined with the digital tools we provide means that we can now offer reports and maps online and with great accuracy and speed. We provide free and paid-for search and reporting services together with websites allowing anyone in Wales to record anything interesting that they spot. We accept records of all wildlife, not just the rare and interesting, from a House sparrow to a Humming-bird Hawk moth.”

In a unique collaboration that has seen volunteers, trained recorders, local ecologists and biologists working together to compile and share local records using digital technology, Wales now has an up to date records service available online to assist planners tasked with protecting, enhancing and considering environmental impacts and potential changes due to climate change. This collaborative network is unique in the UK.

Until 2000, there was no co-ordinated repository for information on the whereabouts of the species, habitats and sites which make up Wales’ unique and important biodiversity. Many organisations and individuals worked hard to record wildlife and manage records of their sightings, but there was no simple way of bringing this data together to ‘see the bigger picture’ of how wildlife was distributed across Wales, or how it was faring in the light of a range of pressures from development, land-use change and climate change.

Following the successful establishment of the Biodiversity Information Service (BIS) for Powys and Brecon Beacons National Park in 2000, partnerships were formed across Wales and, in 2007, the network of four Welsh Local Environmental Records Centres (or LERCs) was completed with the launch of West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre (just outside Whitland in Carmarthenshire). Wales became at the time, and remains to this day, the only nation in the UK with a complete network of LERCs.

LERC Wales staff and board members circa 2007

The four LERCs, each established as an independent not-for-profit company, have closely collaborated and shared expertise since 2007. Recognition of this close collaboration and shared vision grew over the years, culminating in the formation of a consortium to formalise the partnership in 2015 under the banner Local Environmental Records Centres Wales.

LERC Wales staff – David Slade, Elaine Wright, Roy Tapping, Richard Gallon, Amy Hicks, Josh Jones, Janet Imlach, Colin Russell, Kate Smith, Anna Georgiou, Steve Goddard and Adam Rowe

In 2016 LERC Wales launched it’s Aderyn website which uses a collated Wales-wide database and allows visitors to view the distribution of all of Wales’ species, as well as providing a ‘What’s in my Area?’ service which allows them to view a list of species recorded in their area of interest.

As well as two guest speakers, (the keynote presented by Andy Middleton, cofounder of the TYF Group, Funding Partner The ‘Do Lectures’, non-exec board member NRW and associate director of UWTSD’s INSPIRE. Ray Woods, lower plant and fungi specialist presented a talk ‘Why Value Wildlife?’) the tenth anniversary event included the launch and showcasing of new modules of Aderyn, which allow registered professional users increased access to the shared data resource of the LERC Wales partnership, which now stands at 10 million unique biological records.

The event included talks, demonstrations and Q&A sessions allowing those present to explore the range of tools available including data input portals and search modules for planners and ecological professionals.

LERC Wales managers, board members and speakers. Janet Imlach, Colin Russell, Roy Tapping, Adam Rowe, Jane Hodges, Paul Sinnadurai, Andy Middleton and Ray Woods

The tools launched and demonstrated will help cement the role of the Welsh Local Environmental Records Centres (LERCs) as key organisations in growing an evidence base fit for Wales.

Legal obligations such as the new biodiversity and ecosystem resilience duty for public bodies established by the Environment Act (Wales) 20161 can be met by working with this service to gain access to biodiversity records.

“Future decisions relating to developments, projects or plans in Wales should be evidence-based and should contribute to meeting the ambitious requirements of Welsh environmental legislation,” the LERC spokesperson concluded.