JNCC UK Biodiversity Statistics suite


JNCC is responsible for the production of eight Official Statistics for UK Biodiversity.  These represent a variety of species and habitats, including monitoring of the UK protected areas network, and come together to construct an up-to-date overview of current status and ongoing trends of UK biodiversity.  This picture illustrates the long term drivers of change in UK wildlife and its response to changing conditions and contributes to UK National Statistics. These data provide contextual information on drivers of change to inform national and country-level policy. 

The official statistics are generated through our collaborative work with partner organisations and most of the data are delivered via our partners websites.  To find out more about how we work with partners have a look at our surveillance pages.

JNCC maintains a release timetable for these statistics, and is the point of first release for:


The statistics schemes - data collection and use


Breeding birds

Updated for 2012

Kingfisher © Dirkr/ Dreamstime

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is the main scheme for monitoring population changes for common breeding birds in the UK. The report is published jointly by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO); Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB); and the JNCC, who provide the Government funding to the scheme.  Data is hosted on the BTO website.

Birds are considered to be good indicators of the condition of the natural environment for several main reasons:

  • Birds are near the top of the food chain, thus are sensitive to environmental change.
  • Extensive and long-running information exists on annual changes in bird populations.
  • A significant body of evidence is available to suggest reasons for population changes.


The BBS network of over 2,500 volunteers collects data on distribution and abundance of birds.  The BBS is the primary data source for the UK Biodiversity Indicator for wild birds, with additional data from other sources integrated into the indicator. 


Breeding seabirds

Updated for 2012

The Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) is the monitoring scheme for breeding seabirds in the British Isles (including data from the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man).  JNCC is a lead partner in the SMP Partnership and co-ordinates the running of the scheme. Other partners include Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, and non-governmental organisations such as the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, British Trust for Ornithology and the National Trust.

Arctic tern © Miha PodlogarA significant proportion of the world population of several species of seabird occur in the UK, and the SMP collects data for all 25 seagull species that regularly breed here.  A large network of sites collect data on breeding abundance and breeding productivity, supplied by partners and volunteers. These are collated and supplemented by the studies at four JNCC-contracted Key Sites, which provide information on adult survival, diet, phenology used to help to diagnose the changes in abundance. Data has been collected by the SMP since 1986, and longer term context is provided by the results of three complete censuses of breeding seabird in the UK and Ireland:

  • Operation Seafarer in 1969-70
  • Seabird Colony Register in 1985-88
  • Seabirds 2000 in 1998-2002


The SMP data supports a number of statutory processes, notably including monitoring relating to the condition of sites of national importance (e.g. SSSI) and international importance (SPAs).  As well as site-related aspects, the data also provide necessary information on the status and trends of individual species as required by the Birds Directive.


Wintering waterbirds

Updated for 2012

The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) is the monitoring scheme for non-breeding waterbirds in the UK, and is a partnership between the BTO, the RSPB and the JNCC, in association with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).Ruddy turnstone © Pierre Tellier

The UK is of notable international importance for waterbirds, with the relatively mild climate and extensive wetland areas (especially estuaries) attracting as large numbers, particularly during winter, when most survey takes place.  WeBS started in 1947, and now around 3,000 volunteers take part in synchronised monthly counts at wetlands of all habitat types.

The data collected are used to assess the size of waterbird populations, determine trends in numbers and distribution, and assess the importance of individual sites for waterbirds, in line with the requirements of international conservation Conventions and Directives, including primarily the Birds Directive, Convention on Migratory Species, and the Ramsar Convention. 
The WeBS is a data source for the UK Biodiversity Indicator for wild birds, providing the wintering waterbirds measure.


6 yearly site trends / site alerts from the Wetland Birds Survey

Last update 2006

The Alerts System was developed as part of WeBS, to provide a standardised method of identifying the direction and magnitude of changes in numbers – at a variety of spatial and temporal scales – for a range of waterbird species for which sufficient WeBS data are available.

Species that have undergone major changes in numbers can then be flagged by issuing an Alert. Alerts are intended to be advisory and – subject to interpretation – used as a basis on which to direct research and subsequent conservation efforts if required.


Mammal trends

Last update 2011Fallow deer © BDS Image Library 2006

The National Gamebag Census (NGC) records abundance and distribution trends for 19 UK mammal species (excluding bats)/  The NGC has been run by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) since 1961 and collates gamebag numbers of quarry species and predator species reported from estates across the UK.  Analysis by the GWCT, commissioned by JNCC, has shown that mammal trends produced by the NGC are representative of mammal population trends in the wider countryside.

The NGC is valuable as it provides relatively long-term trends (most from 1961) for many predatory and game species, and has good coverage in remote areas such as the Highlands. Additional data from before 1961, supplied by estates with long- term records of their own, has been integrated with the more recent data, extending the time series back to 1900 for many species.

NGC data provides important background information on the distribution and changes in populations of some mammals, including four UK BAP priority species, two of which are partially protected under the EC Habitats Directive.  The scheme also records several invasive non-native species that are impacting on native wildlife, including Muntjac and American mink.

In addition to the official statistic produced with this data, there is a pilot study underway to investigate whether combining the NGC data with mammal records collected during the BTO BBS will allow for more detailed analysis.


Trends in UK Bat species

Updated for 2012

Greater horseshoe bat © Mike Mammett

The National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP) is the only scheme for monitoring the population changes for the UK’s resident bat species. Established in 1996, the NBMP is a partnership programme between the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) and JNCC.  Data on distribution and abundance of bats in the UK are collected by a network of volunteers, producing both trend and population data.  The NBMP report provides trends since 1997 for 11 of the UK’s 17 resident bat species.

Bat species make up a third of the UK’s mammal fauna, occurring in most lowland habitats across the UK, and the species used in this index are widespread throughout a variety of landscapes. Key pressures on bats (landscape change, agricultural intensification, development, habitat fragmentation) are also relevant to many other wildlife groups. Bats are sensitive to pollution and factors affecting their insect prey (e.g. pesticides, drainage, land management change). Climatic shifts are predicted to affect bat populations through changes in their yearly hibernation cycles, breeding success and food availability.

All bats and their roosts are protected by domestic and European legislation. The UK is a signatory to the EUROBATs agreement, set up under the Convention on Migratory Species, and information on bat trends is also required for UK obligations under the EC Habitats Directive; seven of the UK’s bat species are also BAP priority species.  The NBMP data is the primary contributor of data for the UK Biodiversity Indicator for bats.


Butterfly abundances

Updated for 2012Since the 1970s the comma butterfly has spread northwards, consistent with increasing temperatures © Helen Baker

The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) records data on the population status of UK butterflies, using a wide-scale program of site-based monitoring, primarily through the use of transects walked by volunteer recorders.  UKBMS is produced by Butterfly Conservation under partnership contract with JNCC and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

Butterflies are highly biologically suitable as indicator species, occurring in a wide tange of habitats, having rapid lifecycles and, in many cases, showing high sensitivity to changes in environmental conditions.  Butterflies are complementary to birds and bats as an indicator because they use resources in the landscape at a much finer spatial scale; correspondingly the UKBMS is the primary contributor of data for the UK Biodiversity Indicator for butterflies.

These data are used to assess of the impacts of climate change and the progress of government policy initiatives such as the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, agri-environment schemes and site condition monitoring of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), as well as providing information required for UK obligations under the EC Habitats Directive.


Protected sites extent and condition

Updated for 2012

Image shows an example of overgrazing, with overgrazed land on the right, in contrast with suitable grazing on the left. © Peter Wakely, English Nature.

The site condition statistics show the percentage of features on protected area meeting set criteria (the features are the species or habitats for which the sites have been designated). Features have been assessed since 1998.  The condition of protected sites is used as a measure of the effectiveness of conservation management.  JNCC collates data from the devolved conservation agencies’ monitoring of site condition to create an overview at UK-level.

The data is used to produce the UK Biodiversity Indicator for protected areas, and for information required for UK national and international obligations.

Designation and management of protected areas are key mechanisms for focusing attention on the loss of biodiversity in response to human pressure on the natural environment. These protected areas cover many of the most valuable sites for biodiversity in the UK, with associated legal mechanisms for safeguarding habitats and species.

The types of protected sites within the statistics are:

National legislation sites:

  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs); 
  • Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) in Northern Ireland

European / International sites:

  • Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) – set up under the Habitats Directive
  • Special Protection Areas (SPA) – set up under the Birds Directive