FSC BioLinks Strategic Evaluation Report: Evaluation report of the FSC BioLinks project undertaken by an independent evaluation consultancy [version 1].
BioLinks was a biodiversity project run by the Field Studies Council (FSC) and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), FSC and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. It ran between 2018 and the start of 2023, with a geographic focus on the West Midland and London. FSC BioLinks was all about invertebrate identification. Invertebrates provide many useful ecosystem services, like pollination and decomposition but their numbers are declining. Few people know how to identify or record invertebrates meaning there is a lack of data, so conservationists are struggling to fully understand where, when, how or why they are declining. By providing learning opportunities to help people develop their invertebrate identification (ID) and recording skills BioLinks set out to address this issue. This evaluation report of the FSC Biolinks project is structured on four key evaluation questions: (1) Has the project delivered its strategic outcomes? (2) Which type of activity has had the biggest impact? (3) Has the project succeeded in improving biological recording skills and increased what is understood about natural heritage? (4) What benefits has BioLinks brought to the biological recording sector and how are these going to be taken forward? It is concluded that the majority of outcomes have been effectively delivered, more people are recording invertebrates and submitting records through recognised channels. The training and capacity development undertaken by the project is helping to strengthen the biological recording community and has provided insights into how this activity can be continued by others in the future. Where outcomes have not been met in their entirety is around how the data is being used to affect conservation policy and actions. It has been difficult to determine, if invertebrates are being considered in site management plans and if nature is better protected on sites managed for wildlife.