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UK Biodiversity Indicators 2021

Updated 20 October 2021, revised 28 October 2021

The 2021 update of the UK Biodiversity Indicators compendium was published on 20 October 2020, and subsequently revised and republished on 28 October 2021, in response to an update to indicator A4 (Global biodiversity impacts of UK economic activity / sustainable consumption).

A reduced set of indicators will be updated in 2022 and published on 14 December 2022. The following UK and their associated England indicators are to be published, based on data availability, user needs and timeliness:

  • A4 Global biodiversity impacts
  • B5a Air pollution
  • C1 Protected areas
  • C4a Status of priority species: relative abundance
  • C6 Butterflies
  • D1c Pollinating insects
  • E2 Biodiversity Expenditure

We do not anticipate that this will lead to missing data for the indicators which are not updated this year; data which would have been published this year will be available in 2023.

The next full update is planned to take place after the indicators have been reviewed in 2022/23. The review of the indicator suite is being undertaken to ensure that that best possible data are available, in response to the development of the new post-2020 global biodiversity framework, being agreed through COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and due to be published in early 2023. For more information on the review, visit the website.

The UK is fortunate in having lots of information about its biodiversity, collected across a broad spread of species and habitats both by professionals and by expert volunteers.

This information provides an essential source of evidence for reporting biodiversity change and the impact of policies and actions to conserve biodiversity.

Full updates for each individual indicator are available online – this includes charts, assessments and access to background information and resources, including data and technical background documents. A summary booklet is also available for download.

UK Biodiversity Indicators 2021 revised cover

Biodiversity policy is a devolved responsibility in the UK; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have each developed, or are developing, their own biodiversity or environment strategies. Indicators are being developed to track progress with the respective commitments in each country. The UK indicators have a specific purpose for international reporting and were selected following consultation and agreement between the administrations. The indicators provide a flexible framework and a common set of methodologies which in some cases can also be used for country reporting. The indicators may be subject to further review as necessary. 

The UK indicators were comprehensively reviewed during 2011 and 2012 to ensure they continued to be based on the most robust and reliable data available; and remained relevant to the new international goals and targets. 

Since then, the indicators have been refined to improve their relevance/quality, and new indicators developed to fill gaps. In this version of the publication, as many as possible of the indicators have been updated with new data. In some cases, however, development work is ongoing, and where this is the case, the work to develop them has been described briefly. Two of the indicators previously earmarked for development (A3 and B3) will no longer be taken forward because it has not been possible to develop suitable measures.

A further review of the indicators is being undertaken in 2022/23 to take account of the new post-2020 global biodiversity framework being negotiated under the Convention on Biological Diversity. For more information on the review, visit the website.

The UK Biodiversity Indicators are dependent on a wide variety of data, provided by government, research bodies, and the voluntary sector – in total nearly 100 organisations are involved. The presentation and assessment of the indicators has been verified by the data providers, and the production and editing of the indicators has been overseen by government statisticians.

There are two processes for sign-off of the UK biodiversity indicators:

  1. Options for new UK biodiversity indicators may be developed through a number of routes, for example, under contract to Defra or JNCC, or by JNCC working with the statutory agencies and public bodies and/or relevant NGOs. The UK Biodiversity Indicators Steering Group (BISG) is responsible for agreeing that any such option is appropriate to the subject of a biodiversity indicator, and that the presentation is fit-for-purpose (a change to the subject area has to be signed off by the four countries in the UK). Once an indicator has been agreed through BISG, it is the responsibility of the Indicator Project Group (Defra and JNCC) to implement it. The Project Group will make decisions as necessary about detailed presentation or technical issues without referring back to the Steering Group. However, if as a result of changes in the context in which the indicators are presented a new measure or indicator seems to be warranted, the Project Group will bring that back to the Steering Group for further discussion and/or a final decision.

  2. Once agreed through the Steering Group, both new and existing indicators and measures will be incorporated into the annual update process for the biodiversity indicators (noting that some measures can only be updated at less regular intervals). This process is managed to comply with the provisions of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007; essentially this means ensuring that only those who need to be involved see the details of the data before the indicators are published. The work proceeds through a series of steps:

    1. for each of the indicators, one of the Project Group members takes a lead role;
    2. once data have been sourced, the lead prepares the graphical presentation and assessment, and updates the rest of the fiche as necessary;
    3. their work is then checked by another member of the project group;
    4. where appropriate, the revised fiche is sent back to the data providers for quality assurance, to ensure that the data have been correctly presented and objectively interpreted, and that appropriate examples have been incorporated within the fiche text;
    5. further edits are then made by JNCC and Defra as necessary in order to incorporate feedback from the quality assurance process; and
    6. a finalised fiche is published on the JNCC website, a summary of which is also published on GOV.UK.

View links to the full detail of each of the previous editions

This is a Defra National Statistics compendium (see Annex for further details and enquiries about indicators or this publication).

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