A Habitats Translocation Policy for Britain
(2003)
Joint Nature Conservation Committee on behalf of The Countryside Council for Wales, English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage
McLean, I.F.G., JNCC (Drafted by) on behalf of the Inter-agency Translocations Working Group
July 2003
In response to the launch of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Rio ‘Earth Summit’, Target 36 of Biodiversity the UK Action Plan (Anon., 1994) is to “Update and publicise guidelines on translocations, re-establishments, introductions and re-stocking”. This publication comprises part of these conservation guidelines, for those activities relating to habitats translocations.

Executive Summary

 
The numbered paragraphs follow the respective numbered sections of the policy.
 
2. Introduction. In response to the launch of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Rio 'Earth Summit', Target 36 of Biodiversity the UK Action Plan (Anon., 1994) is to "Update and publicise guidelines on translocations, re-establishments, introductions and re-stocking". This publication comprises part of these conservation guidelines, for those activities relating to habitats translocations. Related translocations issues concerning non-native species are dealt with by the Review of non-native species policy (Anon., 2003), while A Policy for Conservation Translocations of Species in Britain (JNCC, 2003) addresses the movement of native species for conservation purposes. Habitats translocation is defined here as the movement of assemblages of species, mainly plants, (typically including the substrates, such as soil and water, on and in which these species occur) from their original site to a new location. Available information shows that it is not possible to move species assemblages without substantial changes taking place in the structure of the habitat and its species composition, thus rendering the translocation unsuccessful.
 
3. Aims. The four principal aims of this habitats translocation policy are to maintain British wildlife in favourable conservation status, to reduce the number of proposals to translocate high quality habitats, to ensure proper scrutiny of any habitats translocations put forward for habitat restoration and to improve monitoring of the results of habitats translocations.
 
4. Previous initiatives on biological translocations in Britain. The history of previous initiatives to review biological translocations in Britain is summarised briefly, with references to selected policy and review documents.
 
5. Key conservation issues in relation to habitats translocations.Habitats translocation has been proposed as a means of saving wildlife from areas threatened by development. These translocations have been portrayed by some as a means of reducing the impact of developments (mitigation), whereas in reality they can only partly make amends for developments (as incomplete compensation). Habitats translocation has also been proposed as a tool for restoring degraded habitats, which requires further research and additional guidelines. This research should include experimental investigations to discover the causes of changes in assemblages after translocation, as well as comparing the outcomes of habitats translocations with the predictions made at the outset by advocates of such translocations.
 
6. Legal issues concerning habitats translocations. Existing wildlife legislation does not contain provisions for habitats translocations, the main legal instruments reside within planning law (Town and Country Planning Act, 1990). Planning inquiries decide which sites should be protected from developments and where habitats translocations can be used in partial compensation for those developments that are allowed to proceed.
 
7. Conservation policy for habitats translocations. The translocation of habitats is considered by the statutory conservation agencies not to be an acceptable alternative to in situ conservation. The statutory conservation agencies will continue to make the strongest possible case against translocating habitats from within SSSIs and from ancient habitats (or other areas with significant biodiversity interest) elsewhere. The principal reasons why habitats translocations are not an acceptable substitute for conserving biodiversity in its original location are summarised under seven headings. The role of habitats translocations for restoring degraded habitats is considered, with the emphasis upon avoiding translocation from SSSIs and other significant sites. Approval of habitats translocation for habitats restoration should be contingent upon demonstrating a net gain for biodiversity as a result of the proposal.
 
8. Future data collection and reporting mechanisms. Habitats translocations should be systematically recorded and the results reported regularly to ensure that proper monitoring is carried out, with the results available to inform future work. There is the need to agree who should be responsible for setting standards for habitats translocations and for making best use of the results.
 
*Members of the Inter-agency Translocations Working Group, who have participated for at least a period of time since its inception, comprise: Prof. M. Crawley (Joint Committee), Prof. W. Heal (Joint Committee), Prof. F. Last (Joint Committee), Dr. M. Howe (Countryside Council for Wales), Dr. R. Mitchell (English Nature), Dr. A. Douse and Dr. S. Ward (Scottish Natural Heritage), Dr. I. McLean (JNCC Support Unit).
 
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Please cite as: McLean, I.F.G., JNCC (Drafted by) on behalf of the Inter-agency Translocations Working Group, (2003), A Habitats Translocation Policy for Britain, July 2003