Sending in records

Photo © Sandy Coppins Members are encouraged to keep a record of the lichens they see, and to send those records in. We need records of common species just as much as those of rarities, and from under-recorded areas and habitats as well as the known lichen hotspots, all these contribute to our understanding of lichens and their ecology and conservation. Repeat records from the same locations also enable us to monitor change. 

Unlike some other national recording schemes we have to rely on voluntary effort to manage our database, so it is a big help to us if records can be sent in by email to using the standard BLS spreadsheet. Guidelines on how to fill it out are given below, and there is a more detailed Recording Guidelines document on the downloads page if you need it. Please try to follow these guidelines as best you can, as that makes it easy for us to import it. A spreadsheet of 1000 records takes just 4 minutes to import if everything has been done correctly, but it can take 1-2 hours if we have to go through it to standardise the details for you.

The spreadsheet works best in modern versions of Excel (but please note that there can be problems with it in OpenOffice and other emulators). Slightly different spreadsheets are also available for churchyard records and for historic records, but these are rarely used now and you may find that the species names have not been kept up to date in them. If you want to use either of these please discuss it with us first.

We will do our best to include records in other formats but that is also more work for us and so there may be a delay to getting them into the database. Please note that we are unable at present to take records submitted through iRecord, iNaturalist or other apps (but if someone would like to volunteer to take on the verification and reformatting of these records we would love to hear from them!).

How to fill in the BLS spreadsheet

The minimum information required on a record is:

  • the location name
  • grid reference
  • date
  • recorders
  • species list

Location and visit details

Although there is a row in the spreadsheet for each species, the location and visit details need only be input once unless that information is different for particular records (e.g. a more precise grid reference).

Location names should be based on those on the OS map, and you should prefix the name with the town, village or general area to ensure that nearby sites are grouped together in any list. Please be as precise as you can, we can always remove detail if you supply too much but we can't make your vague site names or grid references more precise. Churchyard names should include the dedication, and woodlands usually have a local name shown on the large scale map.

Grid references should be input in alphanumeric form, e.g. NY672856 and given to at least 1km accuracy (e.g. NY6785). For records of interest a higher precision is encouraged. Never say "frequent between this grid reference and that", no database can cope with that, so for a rare species please record each location on a separate row and with its own precise grid reference. Site centroid grid refs are often used, but beware of giving a false impression of accuracy if the site covers a large area. As a guide, woodlands are normally given a 1km (4 digit) grid ref, while churchyards being smaller are given a 100m (6 digit) grid ref. Individual walls and trees can be  located to 10m (8 digits) but your GPS is unlikely to be any more precise that.

For the date, give the day, month and year of the record. If you visit a site several times a combined list for a year may be useful, but start a new list each year rather than combining lists from different years.

Include the names of everyone who was actively recording (but not hangers on), and the name of the group if it was a group visit. The first name in the list should always be the main recorder, as that name will also go in as determiner for the records.

Species found

The species list can then be typed in, or it can be entered more quickly by using BLS numbers or by copying in a typed list from a report. The spreadsheet handles many old species names and automatically displays back the BLS number, current name, conservation status, and a code to distinguish lichens from lichenicolous and non-lichenized fungi. For any interesting records further details such as substrate and position should also be supplied.

Substrate and position codes

In the database the general substrate is held as a code for saxicolous, corticolous, terricolous etc, with combinations as needed:

  • Bry - bryicolous (on mosses or liverworts)
  • Cort - corticolous (on bark)
  • Fol - foliicolous (on leaves)
  • Lic - lichenicolous (on another lichen)
  • Lig - lignicolous (on wood)
  • Met - metalliferous (on metal)
  • Sax - saxicolous (on stone)
  • Terr - terricolous (on soil)

Further detail is held as small scale habitat codes. A list of these is included in the spreadsheet, but examples are:

  • CBt - on Betula
  • CFx - on Fraxinus
  • SSd - on sandstone
  • XX - on the church building
  • XHd - on a churchyard headstone
  • XBw - on a churchyard boundary wall

Validation and verification

Ensuring the accuracy of records in the BLS database is a major concern. Automated validation and verification checks will soon be available by using the NBN Record Cleaner, and these check that for each record the grid reference is on land and within the correct vice county, and that it is within the expected distribution of that species. Records that need expert verification and perhaps a voucher specimen are highlighted and sent on to an expert for review. A list of Identification Difficulties is already available on the BLS website and provides useful guidance.

Records of absence

Repeat surveys of a site often involve some time spent searching for species of interest that had been recorded there before. It is useful to have a note in the database to say if these were not found. These are held as “zero abundance” records, with a comment added to the latest confirmed record to indicate that absence information is now available.

Record cards

Some people like to use record cards in the field or to compile a list later on, and we have these for both general and churchyard recording. However, they are not much used now and you may find that we haven't yet updated all the species names on them. If you want to record details of substrate and position it is better to use a notebook and transfer the information directly to the spreadsheet.

Legal matters

Please note that in supplying records to the BLS you confirm that you are giving the society permission to use and share them for purposes of research, conservation, education and planning and to make them publicly available on the NBN Atlas, and that you have the necessary permissions from landowners, commissioning bodies and other named recorders to do so. Once on the NBN Atlas records may also be picked up by GBIF and websites such as SNHi which use NBN Web Services.

Further details are given in the BLS Data Policy.