The website has now been archived. For the latest information from JNCC, visit

Species Dictionary


The Species Dictionary plays an essential role in the management of species data throughout the National Biodiversity Network and is the dictionary used in Recorder 6. The majority of the content of the Species Dictionary is provided by accepted experts and is managed by the Natural History Museum.



The structure differs fundamentally from other equivalent systems (which typically tend to have a single list of names). The NBN dictionary includes the concept of taxonomic  list and it is these lists that are actually held within the database. A species record, rather than being associated with a species name, is actually made against the instance of a name on a particular list (typically a published taxonomic checklist or preferred list in Recorder). The benefit of this approach is that it is less ambiguous when the taxonomy of a species changes. Generally with a particular list it is fairly clear what meaning is associated with a particular name and so tagging a record to a particular list reduces this sort of ambiguity. There are five key tables that make up the main ‘spine’ of the model and these can be seen below:


species dictionary spine



These five tables are essentially linked using keys which are sixteen digit alphanumeric identification codes which look very similar to one another. The three main keys are likely to be familiar to Recorder users:


An organism can have a variety of names which may be current, obsolete, incomplete, misspelt or in the case of common names numerous. To eliminate the confusion this can cause a component known as Nameserver matches all the names of an organism to the current recommended scientific name (and with this the recommended taxon version key). This ensures that all relevant data are returned in a search and also provides a history of an organism’s taxonomy.


The Nameserver is simply a table within the NBN Species Dictionary and provides a key service in the NBN Gateway as well as the reporting functionality within Recorder 6. It is a facility that provides a controlled source for the consistent and reliable naming of species. It has been compiled and maintained by the Natural History Museum for use across the NBN and within the UK biodiversity recording community.