A2. Taking action for nature: volunteer time spent in conservation

 

Type: Response Indicator

 

Summary

Figure A2i.  Index of volunteer time spent in selected UK conservation organisations, 2000 to 2014.

 Figure A2i. Index of volunteer time spent in selected UK conservation organisations, 2000 to 2014

Notes:

  1. The index is calculated using a non-weighted aggregation across organisations.  It is therefore strongly dependent on the trends reported by the organisations recording large amounts for total volunteer hours.
  2. Interpolated estimates (based on trends reported by other organisations) have been used to fill missing years for the Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways) (2000–2009), Butterfly Conservation (2000–2002), The Conservation Volunteers (2000–2005), Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority (2000–2001, 2003), National Parks England (2000–2008), Natural England (2000, 2002), Plantlife (2000–2006), The Wildlife Trusts (2000–2005, 2010 and 2013), and the Woodland Trust (2000–2001).
  3. Data provided by the The Conservation Volunteers, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, Natural England, the Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways), National Parks England, and RSPB were for financial years rather than calendar years.  Financial year data have been assigned to the first calendar year (e.g. 2011/12 data were allocated to 2011).

Source: Bat Conservation Trust, Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland, British Trust for Ornithology, Butterfly Conservation, Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways), The Conservation Volunteers, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, Natural England, National Parks England, Plantlife, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust.

 

Assessment of change in volunteer time spent in conservation

 

Long term

Short term

Latest year

Conservation volunteering

indicator improving
2000–2014

indicator declining
2009–2014

Decreased (2014)

 

  • The amount of time people spend volunteering to assist in conservation in part reflects society’s interest in and commitment to biodiversity.  The work undertaken by conservation volunteers includes: assisting with countryside management, carrying out surveys and inputting data, assisting with administrative tasks, and fundraising.
  • Between 2000 and 2014 the amount of time contributed by volunteers has increased by 3 per cent, but in the five years to 2014 it decreased by 23 per cent.
  • The indicator assessment for conservation volunteering should be treated with caution, as the methodology used by some conservation charities changes from year to year.  This can cause fluctuations in the data, particularly where there are revised methods used by charities that have previously recorded large amounts for total volunteer hours. 
  • The data series has been revised since the last publication in 2014, due to some organisations providing updated figures for previous years.

 

Indicator description

The indicator presents an index of the number of hours worked by volunteers for 13 UK conservation charities and public bodies (including National Parks England which represents all National Parks in England – see Background section for a full list).  Conservation volunteering includes any voluntary activity for an organisation or community undertaken to: further the understanding, protection or enjoyment of the natural environment, including wildlife recording and surveying; practical countryside management; providing education, training and guided walks; and administration or other office support.  

There has been an increase in volunteer activity between 2000 and 2014.  The assessment is based on a three-year average from the baseline, using the three earliest consecutive years available. However, between 2009 and 2014 the indicator has declined by 23 per cent; there has been a decrease in volunteer hours from the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Plantlife and The Wildlife Trusts (WT) over this time period.

A decrease in time spent volunteering between 2000 and 2001 can be attributed to a decline in all conservation activity due to controls on countryside access during the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak.  The small peak in volunteer time in 2007 is largely driven by an increase in volunteer numbers at TCV which initiated a number of large youth programmes in that year.  The decrease in 2012, however, is due to a decrease in the number of volunteers across a number of organisations including: TCV, National Parks England, BCT, the RSPB and the BTO.  The TCV figures showed a 26 per cent decrease in volunteering numbers from their peak in 2010 to 2012. This reduction is possibly a response to changes in public expenditure on partnership initiatives, although there has been a concurrent increase in the number of community groups affiliated to TCV, suggesting a possible change in volunteer behaviour (additionally, TCV are working to improve their recording of data about volunteer activities and part of the decline may be a result of their focus on improving data quality).  The Greenspace programme, run in partnership with the Green Flag scheme, has also ended, and this has led to a decrease in volunteering hours.  The overall decrease between 2013 and 2014 is due to a reduction in the number of volunteers across a number of organisations including: RSPB, TCV, Natural England, Plantlife and the Woodland Trust.  This reflects the cyclical nature of some projects undertaken, such as tree planting and work on specific nature reserves, but also revised methodology used by one NGO to survey and record the number of volunteer hours.

 

Relevance

Volunteer time is one way of assessing the level of public engagement with biodiversity.  Volunteering for conservation charities is critical to the successful delivery of many of the objectives of the country biodiversity and environment strategies – for example, volunteers collect much of the data used for monitoring the status of species and also undertake practical work to manage threatened habitats.

Background

The indicator is based on data on volunteer hours supplied by 13 UK conservation charities and public bodies:

  • Bat Conservation Trust
  • Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland 
  • The Conservation Volunteers
  • British Trust for Ornithology
  • Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways)
  • Butterfly Conservation
  • National Parks England 
  • Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority
  • Natural England
  • Plantlife
  • RSPB
  • The Wildlife Trusts
  • Woodland Trust

National Park data for England is now collected through the National Parks England Head Office, rather than by contacting individual National Parks directly.

 

Table A2i provides information on whether the organisations contributing to the indicator provided data for the whole or part of the United Kingdom or Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). 

 

 

Table A2i.  Organisations contributing data to the indicator.

Providing UK- or GB-wide data

Providing data for part of the UK 

Bat Conservation Trust

Loch Lomond & The Trossochs National Park Authority

Canal & River Trust (formerly British Natural Waterways)

Natural England

Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland

National Parks England

The Conservation Volunteers

 

British Trust for Ornithology

 

Butterfly Conservation

 

Plantlife

 

RSPB

 

The Wildlife Trusts

 

Woodland Trust

 

 

Some organisations were able to provide accurate figures for number of hours worked; others provided estimates based on the number of volunteers and an estimate of average days worked by their volunteers each year.

Data were not available for all organisations in all years.  In previous years, the indicator has omitted organisations without a full run of data because if included, some years had more organisations contributing than others – artificially inflating the figures in those years.  For the current indicator, all missing values have been estimated by Defra statisticians, by interpolating from the figures provided.  These estimates were based on (a) the trend in the data provided by the organisation with a gap in their records, and (b) the trend in the data provided by other organisations for the missing years.  This has led to a slight revision of the data series since 2012. 

In broad terms, the type of work undertaken by volunteers falls into four categories: countryside management; surveys and data input; administrative and office support; and ‘other conservation volunteering’, which includes activities such as fundraising, training and educational events.  Not every NGO provides the breakdown of volunteering hours shown in Figure A2ii, and therefore the trends shown in this figure are different from the overall assessment in Figure A2i.  Work in all four categories has decreased between 2013 and 2014, with the largest falls being in surveys and data input (down 40 per cent) and countryside management (down 17 per cent) (Figure A2ii).  NGOs have reported that the changes are due to shifts in strategic focus resulting in significant adjustments to projects such as tree planting, and also the need to consider volunteer numbers in order to comply with health and safety regulations.  Due to differences in data quality and incomplete data series from many of the organisations included in the indicator, the numbers of volunteer hours for the four categories were converted to separate indices prior to combining them into one overall index.  The indicator therefore shows the change in relative rather than absolute number of hours worked by volunteers.

 

Figure A2ii.  Index of volunteer time spent in selected UK conservation organisations, shown by category of work, 2000 to 2014.

Figure A2ii. Index of volunteer time spent in selected UK conservation organisations.

Notes:

  1. Interpolated data have been used to fill missing years for Butterfly Conservation (2000–2002), Natural England (2000, 2002), Plantlife (2000–2006), The Wildlife Trusts (2000–2005, 2010), and the Woodland Trust (2000–2001).  Interpolated data has also been used for 2011 for Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland, Soils Association, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, and Peak District National Park.
  2. The indicator has expanded in scope over time; this means the current indicator is not comparable with earlier publications.

Source: Bat Conservation Trust, Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland, British Trust for Ornithology, Butterfly Conservation, Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways), The Conservation Volunteers, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, Natural England, National Parks England, Plantlife, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust.

 

Goals and targets

Aichi Targets for which this is a primary indicator

Strategic Goal A. Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society.

Aichi icon 1Target 1: By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.

 

Aichi Targets for which this is a relevant indicator

Strategic Goal A. Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society.

Aichi icon 2Target 2: By 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems.

Aichi icon 4Target 4: By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.

 

Web links for further information

Reference

Title

Website

Bat Conservation Trust (BCT)

Home page

http://www.bats.org.uk/

Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI)

Home page

http://www.bsbi.org.uk/

Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways)

Home page

http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/

Association of Inland Navigation Authorites

Quantifying the extent and value of volunteering in relation to inland waterways

http://www.aina.org.uk/docs/AINA
%20Volunteering%20Report%20Apr11.pdf

(PDF, 508kb)

The Conservation Volunteers

(TCV)

Home Page

http://www.tcv.org.uk/

British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)

Home page

http://www.bto.org/

Butterfly Conservation

Home page

http://butterfly-conservation.org/

Plantlife

Home page

http://www.plantlife.org.uk/

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority

Home page

http://www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/

Natural England

Home page

https://www.gov.uk/government/
organisations/natural-england

RSPB

Home page

http://www.rspb.org.uk/

The Wildlife Trusts

Home page

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/

Woodland Trust

Home page

http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/

National Parks England

Home page

http://www.nationalparksengland.org.uk/

 

 

Download Datasheet

 

Last updated: December 2015

Latest data available: 2014