Plants of the wider countryside indicator
Type: State Indicator
Until 2013, the indicator presented the change in plant species richness in survey plots across Great Britain between 1990 and 2007 for a range of widely occurring habitats. The results from seven habitat types were presented, grouped into three measures for the assessment: arable and horticultural land; woodland and grassland; and boundary habitats. As the data has not been updated since 2007, the data presented previously is considered too out of date to be fit-for-purpose. A new indicator based on the National Plant Monitoring Scheme is being considered, but needs more work before it can be presented as an experimental statistic.
No update since previous publication.
Following the adoption of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, the UK biodiversity indicators were reviewed, and a programme of work put in place to develop and refine the indicator set for future reporting to the CBD. A small number of refinements were identified where there are issues with current indicators. Indicators for reporting on plants of the wider countryside were identified as one of the areas requiring refinement.
Progress to date
An indicator of plant species richness has been published previously within the biodiversity indicators set, based on analysis of changes in land cover recorded in the Countryside Survey – a detailed periodic audit of a statistically representative sample of land across Great Britain. As the latest Countryside Survey data are from 2007, the data previously presented for this indicator is considered too out of date to be fit-for-purpose and retained within the indicator set as a headline measure: the UK Biodiversity Indicators Steering Group therefore took the decision to move this data and analysis to the background section of this fiche.
During 2015 and 2016, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Defra have investigated the possibility of using Bayesian occupancy models – see indicators C4b and D1c
for details – to identify trends in plant species. Trials have focused on species that will be monitored with the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS; see below). Although initial testing using Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI) atlas distribution data is encouraging, the measures under development (for woodlands and for lowland heathland) require further work before they will be fit for publication as experimental statistics. Unfortunately, further development was not possible in 2016-2017; however it is hoped that a new experimental statistic can be developed in the next year or two.
In the slightly longer term it is anticipated that the National Plant Monitoring Scheme designed by the BSBI, CEH, Plantlife and JNCC will provide relative abundance data for around 400 indicator species – which will be more equivalent to the data underpinning the birds, bats and butterfly indicators – allowing a more comparable indicator of plants and habitat trends to be developed. It will not be possible to produce a trend before 2020, as the NPMS was only launched in 2015 and further time is needed to collect enough data to be able to calculate the size and direction of the trend. Initial consideration of possible options for an indicator focussed on plant diversity in the survey plots; a more detailed evaluation of the data is being undertaken to see if trends for individual species within habitats can be derived from the data.
Last updated: July 2018
Latest data available: 2007