The National Biodiversity Network (NBN) is a collaborative project, but, above all else, it is a partnership, which involves many of the UK’s wildlife conservation organisations, the government and country agencies, environmental agencies, local environmental records centres and also many voluntary groups.

All of these organisations collect and use biodiversity data and they are all committed to making this information widely available.

Work of the NBN is facilitated by the NBN Trust, an independent charity.

What happens to the information?

Information is held by many different organisations and the individuals who collect it in a variety of formats, from computer databases to handwritten record cards. This means that although a huge amount of information exists, it isn’t always easy to access.  The NBN idea could not be simpler: capture wildlife data once in a standard electronic form; integrate data from different sources; and use the internet to enable data to be used many times in different ways by as many people as possible.

One way in which the data is made available is through the NBN Atlas.  The NBN Atlas quite simply acts as a “data warehouse” for biodiversity information, which can be quickly and easily accessed to understand the distribution of particular species in the UK. Individual records, covering plants, mammals, birds and invertebrates, are stored on the NBN Atlas and these can then be displayed on a map of the UK in a number of different ways.

Why do we need a national network?

The idea of a national network for the exchange of biodiversity data started in the 1980’s onwards. The concept was the theme of a major report in 1995 carried out by the Co-ordinating Commission for Biological Recording.  The report revealed that despite many thousands of people being involved in recording wildlife there was a lack of agreed standards, general ignorance of what records existed and also of the law affecting ownership.  There was a clear need for leadership which would build on existing strengths and overcome weaknesses.  It was also clear that there needed to be a mechanism for making the information which was, at the time, stored in over 2,000 different locations, more easily available!

How is the NBN organised?

The National Biodiversity Network Trust was set up as an independent charity in 2000 to oversee and facilitate the development of the Network. The Trust is also supported by a wide range of biodiversity data contributors and users and through a membership scheme.

How can the NBN be of use to you?

As the NBN is concerned with making species data available to anyone interested in the UK’s biodiversity, the NBN Atlas has a wide variety of users.  So, whether you’re a government planner helping to devise new land use policies, a countryside manager who wants to know if an area is protected, an industrial company wanting to carry out an environmental impact assessment or any individual interested in the wildlife in your area, the NBN Atlas will be of use to you for your initial research.  The NBN is a partnership and we would always recommend that the fine detail required for your work is obtained from the Local Environmental Records Centres or recording groups who hold the most up to date local information. We can offer specific advice and guidance as to how you can make best use of the NBN.

You can find out more about the NBN Trust and its plans in the 2022 – 2027 Strategy – Making data work for nature.