Many currant resources on the species covered by UKBAP such the designation native reports, NBN Gateway and other media often fail to take account of the historical distribution of invertebrates of conservation importance. Contained within the NHM collections are thousands of specimens going back to the early 19th century and beyond, showing by their labels the distribution of species dating to a period before widespread habitat loss and pollution. This is highly significant for their conservation as knowing the present and historical distribution of a species is essential for any work undertaken to protect and converge it. In fact, many species are given conservation status specifically because they have declined, i.e. their present distribution is less than their historical distribution. For this reason the historic distribution data of most threatened species is of considerable interest to conservationists as these former (wider) distributions can throw light on reasons for decline, and historic records may show modern day recorders valuable pointers for possible additional sparse populations of rare taxa, and estimate what their geographical limits might have been under more favorable conditions.
However, the majority of information on the historical distribution of species is locked up in major museum collections, and is often provided in a way that is difficult to interpret without expert curatorial assistance, and has not been extracted. Following on from years of Feedback to those working on these collections by conservationists regarding access to information on individual species and specimens held at the Museum, the importance of having reliably transcribed label data has been shown to be of the highest importance. This often extremely cryptic data including collectors handwritten notes, habitat data and often multiple observations from generations of collectors and researchers on particularly old material is of international use and value and this projects main aim was to make this freely available in a comprehensively checked reliable form to the whole conservation community for all UKBAP species of Coleoptera, to allow them to paint a more realistic picture of species’ distribution and status in the UK.