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Surveillance Schemes

JNCC’s surveillance programmes aim to contribute to the overall surveillance and monitoring needs within the UK. They achieve this by supporting efficient schemes that meet multiple requirements and support uses at UK, country and, where relevant, local scales. The programmes invest with partners in long-term schemes, most of which depend on a huge contribution of time and effort by skilled volunteers. Schemes are sufficiently widespread and systematic to allow for assessment of trends in distribution and/or population. Although the schemes are taxonomically based, in many cases their sampling strategies are designed to make them sensitive to the environmental and anthropogenic drivers of change operating at broad scales. Through analysis, they can provide information relevant to a wide range of policies.

JNCC and its partners are very grateful for the dedication and skills of volunteers, and the data they collect, which is so critical to our knowledge of UK biodiversity. The benefits to the volunteer community are also of great value, through supporting active outdoor lifestyles and encouraging knowledge of the natural environment on their doorsteps.

Partners from across our surveillance schemes work together to share best practice and tackle common issues through the Terrestrial Evidence Partnership of Partnerships (UKTEPoP) collaboration. JNCC also work with partners in the Terrestrial Surveillance Development and Analysis (TSDA) project to further develop this area, ensuring terrestrial surveillance schemes remain relevant and cost-effective and that we get as much benefit as possible from data collected.

Further information on the results, reports and publications associated with each scheme, as well as details on how to get involved, can be found on the relevant scheme’s website.

Structured schemes

In structured surveillance schemes, volunteers follow a pre-determined sampling protocol. This makes it easier to draw reliable conclusions from the data collected.

Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)

Image: Photo of a Chaffince on a branch by Anna Robinson

Partners: British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), JNCC, RSPB

Summary: BBS is the main scheme monitoring population change in common and widespread breeding bird species at UK level and for individual countries of the UK. It includes the Waterways Breeding Bird Survey (WBBS). Mammals are also optionally recorded and population trends produced.

Sampling approach: In the main BBS survey, volunteers are allocated 1km squares, and within each square two 1km transects are surveyed. In the WBBS, volunteers are allocated a stretch along a waterway, from 500m – 5km. Each BBS and WBBS site aims for two visits per year, and all birds seen or heard are recorded.

Key outputs: Official statistic on UK breeding bird population trends published annually for >100 species. BBS data are used for a range of purposes, including UK Biodiversity Indicators (C4a and C5) and scientific publications and reports.

Wetland Bird Survey (WeBs)

A variety of duck species (including mallard, teal and shoveler), some in the water, others standing or resting near the shoreline. Copyright Anna Robinson.

Partners: BTO, JNCC, RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Summary: WeBS is the monitoring scheme for waterbirds in the UK, producing annual trends, along with information on population sizes and important wetland sites.

Sampling approach:Core counts’ comprise nationally synchronised monthly complete counts of waterbirds within WeBS sectors (defined wetland sites). ‘Low tide counts’ are carried out at estuaries across the UK each year.

Key outputs: Contributes to JNCC official statistics (annual statistic on wintering waterbirds and periodic site trends for wetland birds) and UK Biodiversity Indicators C4a and C5. Data supports international conservation conventions and directives.

Goose and Swan Monitoring Programme (GSMP)

Wetland habitat, with many swans and other waterbirds present. Copyright Anna Robinson.

Partners: WWT, JNCC, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)

Summary: The GSMP monitors the abundance and breeding success of the UK’s native geese and migratory swans in the non-breeding season.

Sampling approach: GSMP uses several bespoke censuses and surveys.

Key outputs: Contributes to JNCC official statistic on wintering waterbirds and UK Biodiversity Indicators C4a and C5. Data feed into international multilateral environmental agreements (e.g. Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds), are used in reporting, and locally feed into site management plans.

Avian Demographics Scheme

Great tit on a branch. Copyright Anna Robinson.

Partners: British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), JNCC

Summary: ADS encompasses bird ringing and nest recording. Bird ringing includes surveys that follow standardised methods (Constant Effort Sites, Retrapping Adults of Survival) as well as supporting the wider Bird Ringing Scheme. Collectively, ringing and nest recording provides annual data on abundance, survival, breeding success, and phenology, as well as information on bird movement.

Sampling approach: The Nest Record Scheme (NRS) uses a standardised approach to collect annual data on egg-laying dates and egg production. Constant Effort Sites (CES) involves ringing at the same locations and time periods each year, to provide comparable annual data used to monitor survival and productivity. Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) rings individuals of a target species in an area, and aims to re-encounter the same individuals in future years to estimate survival. The more general Bird Ringing Scheme encompasses CES and RAS, and also many externally-funded individual projects and studies that use methods suited to their objectives.

Outputs: Contributes to UK Biodiversity Indicator C5. Bird demographic data from CES, RAS, and NRS contribute to the annual BirdTrends report and help identify mechanisms of population change. Ringing and nest recording data are also used for a wide range of purposes, including understanding migration to assess disease risk.

Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP)

Fulmar with grass and flowers in the background. Copyright Anna Robinson.

Partners: A wide variety of partners

Summary: The SMP is the monitoring scheme for 26 species of breeding seabirds in the British Isles (including data from the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man). Data is obtained on population trends, breeding success, adult survival and diet.

Sampling approach: Periodic complete censuses of seabird colonies in the UK, along with annual sample based recording.

Key outputs: Contributes to JNCC official statistic for breeding seabirds and to UK Biodiversity Indicators C4a and C5.

National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP)

Close up of a greater horseshoe bat on rock. Copyright Mike Hammett, Natural England.

Partners: Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), JNCC, NRW

Summary: The NBMP monitors population changes for 11 of the UK’s 17 resident bat species and has produced trends on these since 1997.

Sampling approach: The NBMP comprises several surveys focussed on different species. Key surveys include the ‘Field Survey’ (recording along transect routes in random stratified 1km squares), the ‘Waterway survey' (surveying for Daubenton’s bat along riparian transects), ‘Roost Counts’ and the ‘Hibernation Survey’.

Key outputs: Contributes to JNCC official annual statistic on the status of UK bats and to UK Biodiversity Indicators C4a and C8. Bats are strictly protected species and data from the NBMP provides an important source of evidence for reporting under the Habitats Directive.

UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS)

Red admiral butterfly with wings open, resting on some leaves. Copyright Anna Robinson.l

Partners: Butterfly Conservation (BC), CEH, JNCC, BTO

Summary: UKBMS records annual data on the population status of UK butterflies.

Sampling approach: Repeat recording of butterflies along transects in recorder selected sites and stratified random 1 km squares. UKBMS also includes some more rapid approaches targeted at specific species and sites (e.g. egg and larval web counts).

Key outputs: Contributes to JNCC official annual statistic on the abundance of UK butterflies and UK Biodiversity Indicators C4a and C6. Data also have value for local management.

National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS)

Dandelion seed heads, with grass and buttercups in the background. Copyright Anna Robinson.

Partners: Botanical Society for Britain and Ireland (BSBI), CEH, JNCC, Plantlife (PL)

Summary: NPMS co-ordinates, collects and analyses data on plant communities in small plots across the UK, mostly within semi-natural habitats, to produce an annual indication of changes in plant abundance and diversity, and information on plant communities and habitats.

Sampling approach: Repeated recording in stratified random 1 km squares, in which around five subplots are surveyed to a specific protocol.

Key outputs: Data from the NPMS provides a valuable source of information on plant abundance within habitats of conservation value. The data are currently being used to develop an indicator of habitat quality.

UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS)

Partners: UKCEH, JNCC. See also PoMS website.

Summary: The UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS) collects annual data on the abundance of bees, hoverflies, and other flower-visiting insects. Will be used to measure trends and target conservation efforts.

Sampling approach: Pan-trap sampling from 95 1 km squares across agricultural and semi-natural habitats in the UK, focusing particularly on bees and hoverflies. Flower Insect Timed (FIT) counts, recording all insect visitors to particular flower species during a 10-minute period, are part of the 1 km square surveys. FIT counts can also be done anywhere from April to September.

Key outputs: PoMS began in 2017, and so is just starting to develop measures of change in pollinator populations. PoMS research, reports, and data, are available from the scheme website.


Ad hoc recording schemes

Ad hoc recording is where volunteers are able to record species as and when they see them, without following a protocol that is based around a strict and pre-determined sampling approach. This encourages participation, as it allows volunteers to be more flexible. It can also introduce biases into the data, with volunteers more likely to record unusual and easily recognisable species, and more likely to record data in easily accessible locations. However, with enough data, these biases can be corrected for statistically, meaning this is nonetheless a very useful and complimentary approach to the structured schemes described above.

Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP) collation of breeding bird records

A birdwatcher in a hide looking through a telescope. Copyright Anna Robinson.

Partners: RBBP, JNCC, RSPB, BTO, independent members

Summary: RBBP collate records of almost 200 species of rare breeding birds within the UK.

Key outputs: Contributes to UK Biodiversity Indicators C4a and C5. An annual report is published in the birdwatching journal British Birds.

Support of recording schemes and societies through the Biological Records Centre (BRC)

Speckled bush cricket on a leaf. Copyright Anna Robinson.

Partners: JNCC, CEH

Summary: The BRC website contains a complete list of supported recording schemes.

Key outputs: Distribution data contribute to red-listing and UK Biodiversity Indicator C4b and are shared via the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas.



Citizen science and partnerships in monitoring

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