Biodiversity information: where will it all come from?

The changing status of insects and other invertebrates is a key indicator of biodiversity and the environment that shapes it. Much historical information on biodiversity already exists in our museums and in our scientific literature, but what is needed even more is up-to-date information on current trends. Amateur entomologists are ideally placed to provide this information.

In the past, much careful recording of biodiversity trends has taken place under the heading of 'natural history'. There is no better example of such work than in the notebooks and published works of the Rev. Gilbert White, curate of the parish of Selborne in Hampshire, who lived in the 18th century.

Gilbert White is the model for British biological recording. He was an amateur naturalist who observed different species and their interrelationships carefully and methodically. He asked questions in order to work out what was happening to natural populations. Today, such questions would be posed by the branch of biology known as ecology.

Gilbert White's recording work went on for very many years, thereby providing long term data on his particular location in his home at Selborne. Short term studies, whilst helpful, are often insufficient to provide solid evidence for any response of biodiversity to environmental change.

Next: What is biological recording?