You may have missed it, but Defra recently published the latest annual update of the UK’s official biodiversity indicators. In the first of a three-part blog series, Mark Eaton, Principal Conservation Scientist, explains what they are...
The latest update includes a number of indicators intended to measure how our wildlife is faring, including those which report changes in our wild bird populations.
These bird indicators aren’t in fact new – the Wild Bird Indicators in this publication were published separately, back in November 2017. But this latest Defra publication contains updates of a much broader suite of measures, the majority being shared for the first time. There’s a lot of detail – the indicator report runs to 60 pages – with far more in supporting documentation online.
So to make life a little simpler, here’s a brief overview, with a personal take.
These indicators are produced to rigorous standards, by statisticians at Defra and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), assisted by many other scientists within government, research institutions, and non-governmental organisations - including ourselves at the RSPB.
We trust these indicators – the government aren’t cooking the books – but it doesn’t mean they tell the whole story as to what is happening to the UK’s nature.
What are these indicators for?
They are intended to form a basis for the UK’s reporting on progress towards meeting international commitments, most notably the goals and targets (known as 'Aichi targets’) enshrined within the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity has five broad goals, each with a number of Aichi targets nested below it, and the UK Biodiversity Indicators are intended to report against these. However, how suitable the UK indicators are for this purpose depends largely on the availability of relevant data, so as such, none of the indicators are ‘perfect’ – they may suffer from data gaps or other imperfections, or may be only tangentially relevant to the Aichi target in question.
Notably, this year’s indicators updates will underpin the UK’s 6th report on how – and whether – we are making progress towards meeting those targets – this report is due to be submitted to the CBD by the end of 2018.
Indicator types: Pressure-State-Response
Loosely, these biodiversity indicators can be grouped into three types, fitting a well-known format of reporting on biodiversity issues known as ‘Pressure-State-Response’.
Come back tomorrow for part two of the blog series, explaining what this year's indicators show.
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