Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Making the most of records

When biological recording first started, its principal objective was to map the distribution of plants and animals. Atlases became very important and impressed a message that submitting data to a recording scheme was about creating dots on maps. That view continues because we have substantially failed to show what else records can be used for.

The situation is changing and Birdtrack has set the pace with its real-time chart that shows how individual species are occurring in comparison to previous years. This is an approach that is really only possible when schemes get records as they are created. It depends upon high levels of memory on the server and as such is probably beyond the options available to smaller recording schemes. The HRS is moving in that direction as one of the larger schemes, but as we are self-funded the costs are starting to rise and we will need to see what we can do to cover them.

Meanwhile, Stuart is hard at work developing our new site and including lots of nice new features that will bring us a bit closer to the real-time Birdtrack approach. We are a little way off that format but he has got a system working that allows analysis of previous years' data. Hopefully, this package will be rolled out in the not too distant future, but in the meantime here are some examples of the current state of play.

At the moment there are just short of 1 million records on the database. I have just passed over approximately 18,000 records that we have for 2017. Those will be incorporated into the database and the background tables updated in the not too distant future. I've got about another week's work sorting out other data that has been submitted in the past few months, so I suspect the total will be nearer 25,000 when all data are assembled.

I have included maps and phenology plots for four common and readily identifiable species to show what is possible. The maps show that whist we have very good coverage, there are some big gaps, and plenty of areas where the last record was made several decades ago. There is lots that even the novice can do to help change this situation! The phenology plots are really instructive and I think show just what the potential is for future real-time reporting. 

Note: the blue histogram represents all records (all taxa) for dates between 2001 and 2016. The subsequent graph expresses the sixteen year average phenology and the red line is the phenology for 2016 as a proportion of all records receved for the week in question. Thus the proportions for species that occur during the winter go up as the numbers of species recorded declines.

Episyrphus balteatus

Eristalis pertinax

Eristalis tenax
Rhingia campestris

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