Mapping species distributions: A comparison of skilled naturalist and lay citizen science recording

René van der Wal, Helen Anderson, AR Robinson, Nirwan Sharma, Chris Mellish, Stuart Roberts, Ben Darvill, Advaith Siddharthan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


To assess the ability of traditional biological recording schemes and lay citizen science approaches to gather data on species distributions and changes therein, we examined bumblebee records from the UK’s national repository (National Biodiversity Network) and from BeeWatch. The two recording approaches revealed similar relative abundances of bumblebee species but different geographical distributions. For the widespread common carder (Bombus pascuorum), traditional recording scheme data were patchy, both spatially and temporally, reflecting active record centre rather than species distribution. Lay citizen science records displayed more extensive geographic coverage, reflecting human population density, thus offering better opportunities to account for recording effort. For the rapidly spreading tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), both recording approaches revealed similar distributions due to a dedicated mapping project which overcame the patchy nature of naturalist records. We recommend, where possible, complementing skilled naturalist recording with lay citizen science programmes to obtain a nation-wide capability, and stress the need for timely uploading of data to the national repository.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-600
Number of pages17
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, The Author(s).


  • BeeWatch
  • Biological recording
  • Bumblebees
  • Citizen science
  • National Biodiversity Network
  • Species distribution


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