Blog by Dr Daniel Hayhow, Conservation Scientist, RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, lead author of State of Nature 2019 report.
From the start-up meeting for the third State of Nature report in July 2018 with Partners, new and old, through to the fantastic blanket media coverage achieved at the launch 15 months later there has been a huge number of people involved!
As I sit on the train and reflect on the last two days of launching the 2019 report, I thought I could share some of the core elements for me in producing the most comprehensive assessment of nature in the UK, UKOTs and CDs.
For the State of Nature reports we collate the best available data on the UK’s biodiversity, with a focus on species to form the evidence for how nature is faring. Quantitative assessments of species status were available in two forms, firstly abundance data from systematic surveys which provide population estimates and species trends (697 species), and secondly occupancy data from national recording schemes from which trends are calculated based on changes in the number of sites where a species is present. This is a measure that reflects the range of a species (6,654 species).
Techniques to create multispecies indicators are continuously being developed, and the State of Nature technical advisory group included experts from Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, BTO, Butterfly Conservation, Mammal Society and RSPB to decide on the best approach for the 2019 report. Quite a lot of lively debate later(!) we came to agreement on the methods used to produce results you find in the report.
It is essential to acknowledge two things:
- The report would not exist were it not for the contribution from the staggering 70, 000 people who voluntarily collect data for national recording schemes or local record centres and ~19, 000 take part in structured monitoring.
- And, there is a huge amount of analytical work carried out to calculate species indices before they can be used in the State of Nature report. This is particularly the case for the occupancy data. It can be difficult to use datasets of opportunistic records to assess changes over time, as recording effort varies across the UK and over time. The majority of the species’ occupancy time series included in our assessment were extracted from Outhwaite et al. (2019), who used hierarchical occupancy modelling in a Bayesian framework to help control biases. The work of Charlie Outhwaite and colleagues at CEH has vastly increased the number of species that we can report on in the State of Nature reports
In State of Nature 2016 we reported the most significant drivers of change that have acted on the UK’s wildlife since the 1970s, and attempted to quantify the impact these drivers had over that period, both to the benefit and detriment of nature. As this was the third State of Nature report we felt that it was an opportunity to dig a bit deeper into these drivers including agricultural management, climate change, urbanisation, pollution, hydrological change, INNS and woodland management.
The challenge: summarise each huge subject areas into 4 pages in an attractive, informative, accurate, objective yet accessible style...! Easy right?!
We chose a Pressure-State-Response framework for these sections to try to provide an overview of how each driver had changed in recent decades, the state of nature as a result of this and some examples of the conservation response to that pressure.
But there were some tricky issues to address often around variation in the amount and quality of data on each of these aspects and the time periods over which they were monitored. The level of understanding of how the drivers of change act on different species groups varies, interactions between drivers posed challenges in presenting a coherent narrative.
The combined expertise from across the Partnership came into its own here; refining, rewriting, reframing, providing examples and counter examples and then rewriting again! I think we eventually got there, but you’ll have to judge for yourself! There’s a lot to read – but please do dip in and have a look.
The State of Nature Partnership is a ‘broad church’ encompassing:
- specialist recording societies with expertise on our best and least known wildlife,
- research organisations responsible for gathering and analysing data
- conservation charities that take action for wildlife and habitats
- and for the first time the country nature conservation bodies for the UK and it’s four countries.
The level of collaboration and trust in this Partnership has been a great privilege to be a part of and the report wouldn’t be possible without the shared vision and dedication of the people involved. I really hope that the relationships forged over previous two reports and importantly over the last 15 months are strengthened in future to achieve ever more positive outcomes for nature together.
Read more about State of Nature 2019 at https://nbn.org.uk/stateofnature2019/
Follow the conversation on social emdia #stateofnature
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