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C3b. Status of UK species of European importance

Type: State Indicator

This indicator was not updated in 2023. It was last updated in 2019.

Introduction

This indicator is based on the results of UK reporting undertaken under a European Directive, and was last updated prior to the end of the Transition Period following the UK’s exit from the European Union (31 December 2020).

Member States of the European Union are required to report every six years on the conservation status of habitats and species of community interest (listed in the Annexes of the EU Habitats Directive). These are habitats and species for which the UK had European level conservation responsibilities.

The assessments needed to conclude whether each species of European importance found in the UK was in a: ‘Favourable’, ‘Unfavourable-Inadequate’, ‘Unfavourable-Bad’ or ‘Unknown’ conservation status. These categories are combined in the indicator as explained in the Indicator description section. This indicator is based on an evaluation of whether the results of the most recent assessment (2019) were better or worse than those for the previous assessments (2007 and 2013).

Key results

This indicator was last updated in 2019 with new data from the 2019 UK Habitats Directive Article 17 report to the European Union.

In 2007, 26% of UK species listed in Annexes II, IV or V of the Habitats Directive were in favourable conservation status, this figure increased to 39% in 2013 before decreasing again to 35% in 2019 (Figure C3bi).

The conservation status of 18% of the species was unfavourable-improving in 2007, it decreased to 10% in 2013 and 4% in 2019.

The conservation status of 14% of the species was unfavourable-declining in 2007, this increased to 15% in 2013 and 17% in 2019.

The proportion of the species assessed as unfavourable-stable increased from 17% in 2007, to 19% in 2013, and decreased to 11% in 2019.

Figure C3bi. Conservation status of UK species of European importance, 2007, 2013 and 2019

A bar chart showing percentage of UK species of European importance in favourable, unfavourable-improving, unfavourable-stable, unfavourable-declining and unknown conservation status in 2007, 2013 and 2019.

Notes about Figure C3bi:

  1. The number of species assessed was 89 in 2007, and 93 in 2013 and 2019.
  2. The chart is based on species listed in Annexes II, IV and V of the Habitats Directive, but excluding vagrants.
  3. The ‘unfavourable-unknown’ category was first introduced in 2019.
  4. Trends in unfavourable conservation status allow identification of whether progress is being made, as it will take many years for some habitats and species to reach favourable conservation status.

Source: UK Habitats Directive (Article 17) reports to the EU, 2007, 2013 and 2019.

Assessment of change in status of UK species of European importance

  Long term Short term Latest year
Percentage of UK species of European importance in favourable or improving conservation status

Deteriorating

 2007–2019

Deteriorating

 2013–2019

Not assessed

Notes for Assessment of Change table:

The long- and short-term assessments are based on a 3% rule of thumb. See Assessing Indicators. No latest-year change is provided because Article 17 reports are only submitted once every six years and therefore, any latest-year change would simply mirror the short-term assessment.

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Indicator description

Member States of the European Union are required to report every six years on the conservation status of habitats and species listed on the annexes of the Habitats Directive. Details of exactly what information is to be delivered is laid out in the report format and guidance notes. Each assessment needs to conclude whether the species is in one of the following states: favourable; unfavourable-inadequate, unfavourable-bad; or unknown.

However, it is likely to take time before species move from unfavourable conservation status to favourable conservation status, so for the unfavourable assessments, an assessment of trend is made to determine if the species is improving, declining, or stable. The information sources on which the assessments are based vary between species – their quality is documented in the database which underpins the assessments. The changes are largely based on evidence, though expert opinion was used in a few cases where evidence was not available.

The indicator is based on an evaluation of whether the results obtained in 2019 were better or worse than those obtained in 2013 (short term) and 2007 (long term). At its simplest (Figure C3bi), this is the proportion of species which are favourable or show an improving trend (i.e. favourable, or unfavourable-inadequate but improving, or unfavourable-bad but improving). This applies to 44%* of all species assessed in 2007, 48%* of those assessed in 2013, and 40%* of those assessed in 2019; the measure is therefore assessed as declining in both the long and short term.

Figure C3bi combines the unfavourable inadequate and unfavourable-bad assessments which show a similar direction of trend. In 2007, 2013 and 2019, improving and declining trends were assigned where the evidence allowed a conclusion that improvements or declines in the conservation status of species were occurring. Thus:

  • unfavourable-inadequate improving, and unfavourable-bad improving were summed to form the category ‘unfavourable improving’; and
  • unfavourable-inadequate declining, and unfavourable-bad declining were summed to form the category ‘unfavourable declining’.

In 2007, no trend was assigned to those species which were neither improving nor declining. This included both species for which the trend was unknown, and those for which there was no evidence of change. In subsequent years, careful consideration of evidence allowed the use of the term ‘stable’. For ease of comparison in the figures, unfavourable-inadequate and unfavourable-bad assessments with no trend conclusion in 2007 were summed to form the category ‘unfavourable stable’; the same term was used for data in subsequent years, but with more confidence that the trend was neither improving nor declining.

Note that the Habitats Directive Annexes do not include birds, as they are covered by the provision of the (separate) Birds Directive, for which there is a different reporting process.

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Relevance

Article 17 of the European Union Habitats Directive requires Member States to report every six years on progress made with maintaining and/or restoring favourable conservation status for habitat types and species of community interest. These are habitats and species for which the UK had European-level conservation responsibilities.

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Background

The first assessment of conservation status of species and habitats listed on the annexes of the Directive was produced in 2007; a second assessment was produced in 2013; and a third assessment was made in 2019. Each individual species assessment requires information on four parameters, which are brought together using an evaluation matrix to form an overall assessment. These parameters are: range; population; habitat for the species; and future prospects. The trend in the overall assessment is based upon an integration of the trend information for the individual parameters.

The UK reported on 89 species in the Atlantic biogeographic region in 2007. In addition, 28 species classed as vagrants or occasional visitors (4 bats, 16 cetaceans, 4 turtles, and 4 seals) to the UK were not fully assessed. Instead a paragraph of information was provided on the occurrence of each of these vagrant species. In 2013 and 2019, the UK reported on 93 species, and collated information on a further 32 vagrants (six bats, one fish, 17 cetaceans, four turtles and four seals).

The taxonomic breakdown of the 93 species reported for the UK in 2019 is:

Mammals 36
Fish 13
Amphibians   4
Reptiles   3
Invertebrates 16
Plants 21

Of these, 16 species are marine (two marine algae [maerl], one turtle, two seals, 11 cetaceans), and the rest are terrestrial or freshwater. It should be noted that the list of species on the Habitats Directive Annexes was selected with a European emphasis, and therefore only represents a subset of those considered to be of importance for conservation effort within the UK.

Within the Habitats Directive, species can be listed on one or more of three annexes:

  • Annex II: Animal and plant species of Community interest whose conservation requires the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (46 species in the UK, including one vagrant);
  • Annex IV: Animal and plant species of Community interest in need of strict protection (81 species in the UK, including 32 vagrants); and
  • Annex V: Animal and plant species of Community interest for which certain measures to manage their exploitation are required (26 species in the UK; no vagrants).

Statistics for conservation status assessments quoted in this indicator are for the 93 UK species listed on Annexes II, IV, or V, excluding the 32 vagrant species.

Figure C3bii provides a breakdown of Figure C3bi by showing the number of species in the unfavourable categories which arise from the unfavourable-inadequate or unfavourable-bad assessment categories. The picture for species is somewhat better than for habitats (see indicator C3a), in that proportionally more species are in favourable conservation status, and proportionally more species which are unfavourable are in unfavourable-inadequate status than unfavourable-bad status. 

Figure C3bii. Conservation status of UK species of European importance, 2019

A stacked bar chart showing the numbers of UK species of European importance in favourable, unfavourable-improving, unfavourable-stable, unfavourable-declining and unknown conservation status in 2019. The unfavourable categories are also distinguished as inadequate and bad.

Notes about Figure C3bii:

  1. Based on 93 species assessed in 2019.
  2. Graph based on species listed in Annexes II, IV and V of the Habitats Directive, but excluding vagrants.
  3. Trends in unfavourable conservation status allow identification of whether progress is being made, as it will take many years for some habitats and species to reach favourable conservation status.
  4. The unfavourable categories (unfavourable improving, unfavourable stable / unknown, unfavourable declining) show the number of species within a trend which were unfavourable-bad and unfavourable-inadequate.

Source: UK Habitats Directive (Article 17) report to the EU, 2019.

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Country Nature Conservation Bodies have carefully collated and considered a wide range of data, using a robust quality assurance protocol, to come to the conclusion for each habitat and species, and to ensure changes, including within category changes, have been consistently and accurately discriminated. These changes are ecologically important, as stabilising a decline in a species, for example, is an important conservation achievement. The information sources on which the assessments are based are quite varied – their quality is documented in the database which underpins the assessments. The changes are largely based on evidence, though expert opinion was used in cases where evidence was not available.

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Goals and Targets

The UK and England Biodiversity Indicators are currently being assessed alongside the Environment Improvement Plan Targets, and the new Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework Targets, when this work has been completed the references to Biodiversity 2020 and the Aichi Global Biodiversity Framework Targets will be updated.

Aichi Targets for which this is a primary indicator

Strategic Goal C. To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity.

Aichi Target 12 icon

Target 12: By 2020, the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.

Aichi Targets for which this is a relevant indicator

Strategic Goal B. Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use

Aichi Target 5 iconTarget 5: By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced.

Strategic Goal C. To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity

Aichi Target 11 icon

Target 11: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.

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Downloads

Download the Datasheet from JNCC's Resource Hub.

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Last updated:  December 2019

Latest data: 2019

 

This content is available on request as a pdf in non-accessible format. If you wish for a copy please go to the enquiries page.

 

* Note that the combined figure for favourable and unfavourable-improving may be different from sum of the figures provided individually for these categories due to rounding to a whole number.

Categories:

UK Biodiversity Indicators 2023

Published: .

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