UK Biodiversity Indicators

 

The UK is fortunate in having lots of information about its biodiversity, collected across a broad spread of species and habitats both by professionals and by expert amateurs.  This information provides an essential source of evidence for reporting biodiversity change and the impact of policies and actions to conserve biodiversity.

Indicators are one of the means by which the UK can communicate the results of monitoring and surveillance.  The audience for indicators is extremely broad, from the general public to all parts of the private and public sectors.

The idea of a headline suite of indicators, easily understood and communicated to all, supported by additional data and background information to aid interpretation and provide more detail, has proved to be a robust model and the most effective solution for communicating such a difficult subject to such a wide audience.  The UK approach to biodiversity indicators has been well received internationally and has helped to place the UK at the forefront of international work on this subject.

The UK biodiversity indicators have been developed in a co-operative fashion, with input from government, statutory agencies, non-governmental organisations, and academic institutes.  A series of Biodiversity Indicator Forum meetings have been held to debate issues and capture ideas from a variety of stakeholders.

The UK biodiversity indicators publication is designated as a National Statistics1 Compendium. The publication is overseen by Government Statisticians in Defra and is subject to review by the UK Statistics Authority.

Much of the data collection and reporting undertaken by non-governmental organisations is already statistically robust.  Government and its Agencies work with such organisations to ensure that methodologies and the reporting of results are meeting the standards in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

 

There are two processes for sign-off of the UK biodiversity indicators:

  1. Options for new UK biodiversity indicators may be developed through a number of routes, for example under contract to DEFRA or JNCC, or by JNCC working with the statutory conservation agencies and/or relevant NGOs.  The UK Biodiversity Indicators Steering Group (BISG) is responsible for agreeing that any such option is appropriate to the subject of a biodiversity indicator, and that the presentation is fit-for-purpose (a change to the subject area has to be signed off by the four countries).  Once an indicator has been agreed through BISG it is the responsibility of the Indicators Project Group (Defra and JNCC) to implement the indicator.  The Project Group will make decisions as necessary about detailed presentation or technical issues without referring back to the Steering Group.  However, if as a result of changes in the context in which the indicators are presented a new measure or indicator seems to be warranted, the Project Group will bring that back to the Steering Group for further discussion/decision. 
  2. Once agreed through the Steering Group, both new and existing indicators and measures will be incorporated into the annual update process for the biodiversity indicators (noting that some measures can only be updated at intervals rather than annually).  This process is managed to comply with the provisions of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007; essentially this means ensuring that only those who need to be involved see the details of the data before the indicators are published.   As the data are provided to the working group member responsible for the indicator, Defra statisticians take a lead on preparing new graphical presentation of the indicators, and making an assessment of the trend for the measures within the indicator.  Defra Scientists ensure that the policy context is correctly presented.  JNCC make sure that the fiche for each indicator has been updated to take account of any changes since the last time an indicator was published, and, with Defra, undertake quality control.  The revised fiche is then sent back to the data providers in a quality checking step, to ensure that the data provided have been correctly presented and objectively interpreted, and appropriate examples incorporated within the fiche text.  Following the quality check step, further edits are made by JNCC and Defra as necessary, leading to a finalised fiche, which is published on the JNCC website. 

 

For more information about the UK biodiversity indicators, visit UK Biodiversity Indicators 2014,  updated on 4 December 2014 with the most recent information on the indicator suite.

For more information about biodiversity and wildlife statistics released by Defra, visit the Defra website.

 

1Across government and linked bodies, very high importance is given to ensuring trustworthy statistics are produced to inform decision making and ensure accountability to the public.  The Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 established the independent UK Statistical Authority which has statutory authority to oversee the standards for the production and dissemination of official statistics across Government. The Authority has established a Code of Practice for Official Statistics and assesses compliance with this.  This includes the monitoring of the pre-access rules which strictly limits who can see the final figures in advance of publication.  Together these set the standards for assuring that the statistics are produced objectively and impartially to high professional standards.