2015 is a pivotal year for biodiversity.
We are halfway through an international decade designated to deliver the next stage of action plans; the UK signed up to the international Strategic Plan for Biodiversity2011 - 2020 (PDF, 1MB) and the Aichi targets. Biodiversity and the environment are devolved responsibilities and each country is at a different stage in the development and implementation of action plans, but the UK makes a single response to the international secretariat on behalf of all four countries.
At this half way stage in the process it seems a good opportunity to look at how much has been achieved and what else is to be done if we are to have a different outcome than the failure to meet targets which greeted the 2010 analysis of progress.
The Government’s published biodiversity indicators (PDF, 1MB) are a good starting place to see how we are doing. The indicators are a means to assess progress against actions and international commitments. They are useful tools for summarising and communicating broad trends and are built up from individual surveys and monitoring programmes.
The results are a bit of a mixed bag with both positive and negative trends - I have selected a couple to show the variety:
The positive results for volunteers are supported by information for England from Natural England’s ‘Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) - The national survey on people and the natural environment’.
The latest version (February 2015) shows that visits to the natural environment are an increasing part of people’s leisure activity.
So this is all great, it shows we care about our natural world. The assumption could be made from there that this would have a positive impact on the species and habitats around us.
But when you look at individual data for those same species and habitats – and this is not the looking at the rarest or critically endangered but the everyday - the outlook is nowhere near as rosy. Currently the Trust has 500 ancient woods on its Woods under Threat database, the most we have ever had to deal with. National species monitoring shows an equally unhappy picture, for example woodland birds are continuing to decline in both numbers and extent, shown in data from UK biodiversity indicators:
Woods need you!
The data seems to be telling us that there is a growing interest in the environment and biodiversity but that that is not being translated into a positive outcome for the species and habitats that we care so much about.
While the problem seems quite clear, the solutions are much more murky. Nature conservation is not something that can be done by Government or the conservation charities alone, it needs all of us to play our part - what we need to explore, is what that part can be.