Defra funding of the NBN and its development

The NBN via the NBN Trust has benefited from Defra funding since 2001.  This money has helped us to develop the NBN Gateway as well as specific projects such as the Harlequin Ladybird project, Improving the flow of data onto the NBN Gateway, the RISC project and the production of the Darwin Guide to Recording Wildlife.

Contract 2011 – 2014

A contract from 2011 – 2014 was awarded with more details as shown below.

Our initial response for the new contract included work in 15 areas covering a range of activities consistent with the 2010-2020 NBN Trust Strategy. Following consideration by Defra and their advisors, we revised our submission to cover 6 consolidated projects. The contract ran for 30 months from October 2011 until March 2014.

The total value of the contract submission was £474,410 including VAT.

Read the review of the work carried out under the contract here Defra Review 2011


Work within the contract is divided into the following six areas.


This covers the management and administration of the contract. It includes reporting and coordination activities to ensure that the component projects are managed appropriately.

Cost – £82,800


This component provides a contribution to the NBN Gateway MOA (Memorandum of Association) for 2011-2012. Alternative mechanisms to support Gateway development and subsequent funding arrangements for the following years are under review.

Cost – £19,000


This work is concerned with maintaining and improving the flow of data onto the NBN Gateway, facilitating data exchange between local and national data providers and supporting the adoption of tools and technology for accessing and using biodiversity data.  Key elements of this project area include:
• Gap analysis and pilot data exchange agreements between local and national data providers.
• Provision of biodiversity data management tools workshops.
• Funding for Local Record Centres to deliver training to their local recording community to facilitate the adoption of new recording technology.
• Production of guidance on biodiversity data services and statutory requirements.

Cost – £119,520

Work completed under this theme

The first of the LRC documents to promote the local use of biodiversity data and raise awareness of legislation and policy relating to biodiversity data use comes from the East of England.


The eight LRCs involved in this project are:

More documents will be published in the near future by other LRCs.

The first advocacy document which was produced under a separate contract by LRCs in the North West of England can be viewed NW-Local-Records-Centres-Advocacy-document-02-04-2012 and more information on the Publications help Local Record Centres


The Indicia development has provided us with a set of tools to help our partners establish online recording sites at very little cost. The aim of this work is to encourage our partners to add online recording to their own websites with the aim of increasing and improving data flow onto the Gateway. It will encourage and support the adoption of integrated online recording systems by professional user groups, namely Local Record Centres, Wildlife Trusts and ecological consultants.  This will be closely coordinated with work by the Biological Records Centre to facilitate the adoption of online recording by national recording schemes and societies.  The overall objective is to improve the efficiency of data flow and deliver cost savings to partner organisations.  Key elements of this project area include:
• Consultation workshops to agree data flow and verification processes.
• Funding and technical support for the adoption of online recording and Web Services.
• Delivery of training in online recording and Web Services technology.

Cost – £77,640


The NBN Record Cleaner Toolkit provides a way of increasing the verification and validation status of species records. The verification element uses a series of taxa specific rules to identify whether the record is credible. Rulesets which include items such as location, flight dates etc., are developed by the relevant authority in a standard format.

Under the 2008-11 Defra contract, verification rulesets were developed for birds, vascular plants, butterflies, macro moths and marine species.  Under the new contract experts will be able to develop verification rulesets for other taxonomic groups.

Invitations to tender were released in December 2011 and the NBN Trust has now let contracts to:
• British Dragonfly Society
• British Lichen Society
• Spider Recording Scheme
• The Mammal Society, in partnership with Cardiff University, ORCA and the Bat Conservation Trust
• The Marine Biological Association (to produce rules for true crabs)
• British Bryological Society

There is further funding available for the 2012-13 financial year and we welcome expressions of interest from national recording schemes and societies able to produce verification rules for other taxonomic groups, enquiries should be directed to Paula Lightfoot

Cost – £68,160

Reports completed under this theme

British Arachnnological Society & Spider Recording Scheme – Improving the quality of spider records available via the NBN Gateway

Bristish Dragonfly Recording Network – Verification rule sets for NBN Record Cleaner and recommendations on species whose records should be treated as sensitive

Enhancing data quality of bryophyte records for the National Biodiversity Network

Mammal records verification rule sets for NBN Record Cleaner and recommendations on species whose records should be treated as sensitive


The success of the projects related to LRCs covered in the NBN / Defra contract and by the Defra Fund for Biological Recording in the Voluntary Sector depends on ALERC for coordination and communication within the LRC community and for representation of the LRC community at a national level.
However, ALERC’s capacity is limited by the fact that the Directors all work full-time and their contribution to ALERC is made on a voluntary basis.   The recruitment of a full-time ALERC National Coordinator is therefore crucial to the delivery of all the projects which require input from LRCs, and to the wider dissemination and uptake of the project outputs.
We have secured funding from Defra in this contract. ALERC are providing additional cash and in kind support (accommodation and operational management).

The ALERC National Coordinator has now been appointed

Cost – £103,490

Some areas of work proposed by the NBN Trust and partner organisations could not be funded under the Defra contract.  Notable examples were the development of tools to support planning screening, biodiversity offsetting and compliance with the NERC Biodiversity Duty, a pilot project to facilitate data mobilisation and data use within the higher education sector, and support for the uptake of tools and technology to facilitate the use of NBN Gateway data to inform marine and coastal planning and licensing activities.  It might be possible to pursue these work areas if additional funding can be sourced.

You may also be interested to see the news article announcing the new contract.

We were also allocated some special funding from Defra which has allowed us to hold a Citizen Science Biodiversity Data Workshop on 16th February and a further Data Management Tools Workshop on 20th March.

Contract 2008 – 2011

The Trust entered into a three year contract with Defra in February 2008 and this ended in February 2011.

The contract had four main themes:

  • Strategic and operational management
  • Wider use of data
  • Greater access to data
  • Further engagement

Strategic and Operational Management

This theme provided the resources, programme and project management skills to manage the contract.  Geoff Johnson was responsible for this part of the contract.

Wider Use of Data

Work under this theme provided a balance of ongoing analysis and implementation projects running in parallel. It developed a series of projects and work programmes to build tools and resources to increase and improve the use of NBN data with new and existing partners and the general public.  Geoff Johnson was responsible for this theme.

Greater Access to Data

Work under this theme was split between the maintenance and development of the NBN Gateway and the development of a set of projects to increase and improve data availability for priority species by engaging with new and already established partnerships. The Gateway service and development work progressed under the framework of the Technical Steering group, which comprises representation from the country conservation agencies.
Work to increase and improve the availability of relevant biodiversity data was steered by the Data Access Group comprising representation from the country conservation agencies, the Environment Agency and volunteer recording groups.  Paula Lightfoot, the Data Access Officer was responsible for this theme.

Improving data flow was a considerable part of this theme and the following reports have been produced:


Marine Biological Association – Marine Biodiversity Data Flow


Butterfly Conservation – Improving the quality of lepidoptera records available via the Gateway


British Trust for Ornithology – Enhancing data quality of bird records

Botanical Society of the British Isles- Improving the quality of botanical records available via the NBN Gateway

Further Engagement

Work under this theme included an analysis phase to document and develop new and existing engagement opportunities. This was followed up with a set of projects in partnership with organisations experienced in public engagement.  Mandy Henshall was responsible for this theme.


Three projects have been carried out under the Further Engagement theme:

1. Engaging the Public in Monitoring Non-Native Species

The aim of this project is to build on the success of the Harlequin Ladybird project, which has been successful, primarily, because of the involvement of the public and volunteers in registering their sightings.

The Harlequin Ladybird has benefitted from considerable attention, but it is only one of many Non-Native Species now in the UK.  This project selected initially six and laterly 4 other Non-Natives with which to engage the public and allow their sightings to be recorded online.  The project will re-launch later in 2011 with 4 more species, making a total of 14.

A key aspect of the project is working with national societies and schemes.

The selected fourteen species are:

  • Muntjac
  • Water primrose
  • Chinese Mitten Crab
  • Tree-of-Heaven
  • American Skunk Cabbage
  • Zebra Mussel
  • Citrus longhorn beetle
  • American Bullfrog
  • Floating pennywort
  • Water fern
  • Southern green shieldbug
  • Wakame
  • Western conifer seed
  • Rhododendron leafhopper

The project, called RISC (Recording Invasive Species Counts) launched on 22nd March 2010 at the Linnean Society of London.  We were delighted with the press coverage we received.

This project supplements the larger non-natives project, Great Britain’s Non Native Species Information Portal, that runs under the Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) – – which is responsible for Great Britain’s strategy on non-natives.

2. Darwin Guide to Recording Wildlife

In 2009, the year celebrating Darwin’s bicentennary and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of the Species, we produced the Darwin Guide to Recording Wildlife.

This publication is aimed at those with an interest in wildlife, whatever their age, who would like to find out about how they can get more involved. It conveys the value of Darwin’s example for appreciating and monitoring wildlife today and the importance of sharing knowledge and expertise.

It features stories of Darwin’s work, the experiments and monitoring he carried out at his home in Downe and on board the Beagle, and it shows the influence he had on his own children and his protege John Lubbock and how they in turn became involved.

The main part of the guide then turns to how you can get more involved, why recording is important and how to go about it.

The Guide launched at the NBN Conference on 20th November 2009, four days before the anniversary of the publication of The Origin of The Species.

A flyer was sent to all secondary schools in the UK to allow them to order copies of the Guide and to date we have sent out over 1,400 copies to schools and other establishments.

Please visit the Publications page if you would like to order your copy or download the Guide here.

3. Royal Society Summer Exhibition 

The final project under this theme was part funding of a Harlequin Ladybird exhibit at the 2009 Royal Society Summer Exhibition, which took place from 29th June to 4th July.

The exhibit was led by Helen Roy (Biological Records Centre) and Remy Ware (Cambridge University) and represented the collaborative nature of research on the Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis). The exhibit was constructed around a time-line celebrating the early work of Mike Majerus, leading to the arrival of H. axyridis and represented current collaborative research including three sub-themes:

i)    Monitoring the spread of H. axyridis in Britain
ii)   The impact of H. axyridis on native biodiversity

iii)  Natural enemy escape hypothesis

The exhibit has been constructed for ongoing use at such events.

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