Defra biodiversity indicators reveal decline

5th June 2014

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Natural resources ,
  • Biodiversity


Gareth Davies

Despite some notable successes in marine protection, many species and habitats are still in decline, according to Defra's 2014 indicators for the natural environment.

The latest assessment of 13 indicators shows that public engagement with the natural environment has also declined in recent years, with a fall in conservation volunteering from 2007 to 2012. The indicators were drawn up to track progress in implementing the government’s 2011 natural environment white paper.

Across the assessments, which apply a traffic lights system, the overall picture is mixed. Each indicator is composed of one or more measures that, where possible, show trends over time. Seven measures (23%) show improvement in the long term; these include consumption of raw materials, water abstraction and forest carbon stock. Two measures (6%) have shown little or no change and a further nine (29%), mostly species related, have deteriorated.

Over the short-term assessment period, six measures (20%) show improvement, several of which are linked to the quality of habitat. The percentage of woodland under active management, for example, has increased. But eight measures (27%) show little or no change and nine measures (30%) show deterioration. Almost all species measures fall within the latter two categories, including breeding wetland and farmland birds, butterflies on farmland and in woodland, and a number of priority species that are stable or increasing.

Under the indicator for marine ecosystem integrity, fish class size is improving in the short term (2006–11) after a long-term decline (1983–2011).

Three indicators are still being devloped: national environmental accounts; integrating biodiversity and natural environment considerations into business activity; and ease of access to green space.


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