Submitting records

Members are encouraged to keep a record of the lichens they see, and to send those records in. We particularly need records from under-recorded areas and habitats, but records of rare species and good lichen sites are also important to increase our knowledge. Repeat records from the same locations enable us to monitor change. Records of common species can be as valuable as those of rarities. 

Record cards

Record cards can be downloaded for general and churchyard recording. These can be used in the field, or filled in from notes afterwards. Either way they provide a convenient and standardised way to keep a record of the species seen, together with brief details of the site and habitat.

Sending in records

Unlike some other national recording schemes we have to rely on voluntary effort to manage our database, so it is a big help if records can be sent in by email to using the standard BLS spreadsheet. We will do our best to deal with records in other formats but they take longer.The spreadsheet works best in Excel 2003 or later. There may be problems with it in OpenOffice and other emulators.

Slightly different spreadsheets are also available for churchyard records and for historic records, but please discuss using these with us first.

The minimum information required 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.

Define the site using place names on the OS map, and be as precise as you can. Churchyard names should include the dedication, and woodlands usually have a local name shown on the large scale map. Prefix the name with the town or village to ensure that nearby sites are grouped together.

Grid references should be input in alphanumeric form, e.g. NY672856. They should be given to at least 1km accuracy, and for records of interest a higher precision is encouraged. Never say "frequent between this grid reference and that", for a rare species record each location separately. 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).

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. Never combine lists from different years.

Include the names of everyone who was actually recording, 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 from the card 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 non-lichenized fungi. For any interesting records further details such as substrate and position should also be supplied. Further details on how to use the spreadsheet are in the Recording Guidelines.

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 available.

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.