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

Type: Response indicator

Indicator Description

This indicator presents an index of the number of hours worked by volunteers for 14 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. 


  1. Summary


The amount of time people spend volunteering to assist with conservation in part reflects society’s interest in and commitment to biodiversity.

Between 2000 and 2017, the amount of time volunteers contributed to conservation activities in the UK has increased by 46%. It also increased by 7% in the 5 years to 2017 and by 4% in the most recent year available.

Figure A2i. Index of volunteer time spent on conservation activities with selected environmental organisations in the UK, 2000 to 2017.

Line chart showing changes in the index of volunteer time spent on conservation activities with selected environmental organisations in the UK from 2000 to 2017. The index is set to a value of 100 in the year 2000. The index fell  below 100 in 2001 due to restrictions on access to the countryside that resulted from the foot and mouth outbreak but recovered in 2002. It has generally  shown a fluctuating but increasing trend since then.


  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. Historical data were not available for all organisations in all years. To make best use of available data and to allow a combined index to be compiled, interpolation estimates have been used to fill gaps. Further details are given in the background section.
  3. Data provided by the Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways), The Conservation Volunteers, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, National Parks England, Natural England, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts were for financial years rather than calendar years. Financial year data have been assigned to the first calendar year (e.g. 2017/18 data were allocated to 2017).
  4. The data series was revised in 2018 due to some organisations, most notably The Wildlife Trusts, providing updated figures for previous years (see background section for further details). The methodology used to calculate the interpolated estimates was also revised in 2018. This chart is therefore not comparable to those presented in publications prior to 2018.

Source: Bat Conservation Trust, Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (formerly Botanical Society of the British Isles), 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, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Plantlife, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust.

Assessment of change in volunteer time spent in conservation


Long term

Short term

Latest year

Conservation volunteering



Increased (2017)

Note: Long- and short-term assessments are based on a 3% rule of thumb. Where possible, the base years for these assessments use a 3-year average. See Assessing Indicators.



Download the Fiche and Datasheet from the JNCC Resource Hub

Last updated: September 2019

Latest data available: 2017 (and financial year 2017/18)




UK Biodiversity Indicators 2019

Published: .

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