Fourth National Report to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity: United Kingdom Table of Contents



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Fourth National Report to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity: United Kingdom


Table of Contents:


Executive Summary 4

Chapter I - Overview of Biodiversity Status, Trends and Threats 8

1.1 Introduction 8

1.2 Political structure of the UK. 9

9

9


1.3 Terrestrial Habitats 10

1.3.1. Extent of broad habitats 10

1.3.2. Extent of boundary and linear features 11

1.3.3. Condition of habitats and other countryside features 12

1.3.4 Trend in UK BAP habitats 13

1.4 Plants and fungi 14

1.4.1 Vascular Plants 15

1.4.2 Bryophytes 17

1.4.3 Fungi 18

1.4.4 Algae 19

1.4.5 Lichens 19

1.5 Terrestrial Mammals 19

1.6 Birds 20

1.6.1 Breeding Birds 20

1.6.2 Seabirds 21

1.6.3 Wintering Waterbirds 23

1.7 Freshwater Fish 25

1.8 Butterflies 26

1.9 Moths 27

1.10 Biological Recording 28

1.11 Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species 29

1.12 Protected areas 32

1.13 Marine Nature 32

1.13.1 Introduction 32

1.13.2 Plankton 32

1.13.3 Marine habitats 33

1.13.4 Marine mammals 34

1.13.5 Marine fish 34

1.14. Key threats to biodiversity 35

1.14.1 Climate Change 37

1.15 Conclusions 38

1.15.1 Terrestrial / Freshwater Habitat and Species Conclusions 38

1.15.2 Climate Change Conclusions 39

1.15.3 Marine Conclusions 39


Chapter II – Current status of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action plans 41

2.1 Introduction 41

2.2 UK Country Strategies 41

2.2.1 England: 42

2.2.2 Scotland: 42

2.2.3 Wales: 42

2.2.4 Northern Ireland: 42

2.3 UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) 42

2.3.1 UK BAP Reviews 42

2.3.2 England 43

2.3.3 Wales 43

2.3.4 Scotland 43

2.3.5 Northern Ireland 44

2.3.6 UK BAP Success 44


Chapter III - Sectoral and cross-sectoral integration or mainstreaming of biodiversity considerations 45

3.1 Introduction 45

3.2 UK Country Integration Strategies 45

3.2.1 England 46

3.2.2 Scotland 46

3.2.3 Wales 47

3.2.4 Northern Ireland 48

3.3 Addressing threats to biodiversity 48

3.3.1 Agriculture 48

3.3.2 Woodlands 50

3.3.3 Marine and Coastal 51

3.3.4 Water and Wetlands 52

3.3.5 Air quality 53

3.3.6 Invasive Non-Native Species 53

3.3.7 Infrastructure development 55

3.3.8 Climate Change 56

3.3.9 Public Engagement 57

3.3.10 Evidence 58


Chapter IV - Conclusions: Progress towards the 2010 Target and Implementation of the Strategic Plan 60

4.1 Progress Towards the 2010 Target 60

4.2 Progress towards the Goals and Objectives of the Strategic Plan of the Convention 84

4.2.1 Introduction 84

4.2.2 Assessment of the UK contribution to and progress towards each of the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan: 84

4.3 Conclusions 93

4.3.1 Introduction 93

4.3.2 Access and Benefit Sharing 93

4.3.3 UK BAP 93

4.3.4 Meeting the 2010 Target 95

4.3.5 Improving the Convention 97



Appendix I - Information concerning reporting Party and preparation of national report 99

A. Reporting Party 99

B. Process of preparation of national report 100

Appendix II : Further sources of information - key websites 101

Appendix III 102

A. Progress towards Targets of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation 102

B: Progress towards Targets of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas 114

Appendix IV - National indicators used in the report 121

Assessing indicators 121

Overview of trends 123


Statements from UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories 128

States of Jersey 128

Bermuda 133

St Helena 135



Executive Summary

This is the UK's fourth National Report to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity on its implementation of the Convention. It follows the structure set out by the Secretariat and is organised into four chapters.

Chapter 1 provides a broad overview of the status and trends of UK biodiversity, summarising observed changes in species and habitats.

For a highly industrialized and populous country, with a temperate climate, the UK has a wide variety of ecosystems and species. The main factors that lead to this biodiversity are the diversity of geology, landforms and sea floors, the long history of land management, the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, and a large tidal range. These factors create:



  • productive and varied seas which harbour globally significant numbers of fish, seabirds and sea mammals;

  • abundant and diverse wildlife along a great length of coastline that comprise high cliffs, expanses of productive estuarine habitats on which wintering waterbirds can be found in densities as high as anywhere else in the world, and many thousands of islands;
  • a patchwork mix of traditional land uses, semi natural habitats and settlements in the South and East that include important areas for biodiversity such as heathlands, bluebell woods, chalk downland, broads, fens and protected areas;


  • wet oakwoods along the western seaboard, supporting endemic mosses, ferns, lichens and liverworts;

  • large tracts of sparsely populated upland and mountain areas of the North and West that support many relict populations of species surviving from the last Ice Age and provide a wealth of ‘ecosystem services’ in the form of water provision, carbon capture in the continually forming peat and traditional practices such as grouse shooting and the distillation of whisky;

  • an intricate web of freshwater habitats including rivers, lochs, freshwater lakes, waterfalls, coastal lagoons, reedbeds etc.

The species within this varied landscape are also diverse but there are relatively few species that are endemic or at high risk of global extinction. At a global scale, the IUCN Red Data Books list 51 species found within the UK that are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered: marine fish and marine mammals are quite prominent amongst these.

Of the 1,150 species recently identified as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as the priorities for national conservation action, 18% (211 species) have UK populations representing more than 25% of the total for the EU Atlantic biogeographic region. These are broken down as follows: Birds 23; Mammals 1; Invertebrates 56; Higher Plants 52; Lower Plants 71; Other 8.

The UK is fortunate in having a great deal of information about its biodiversity, collected across a broad spread of species and habitats by both professionals and amateurs for many years. These data are essential sources of evidence; for developing policies and targeting actions to conserve biodiversity; and for reporting on progress and understanding the reasons for change and the best options for conservation.

Chapter 2 summarises the status of implementation of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and country strategies. Following devolution and a number of other high-level drivers, a new strategic framework was published in 2007: ’Conserving Biodiversity – the UK approach‘. This new approach is based upon the twin principles of partnership and the ecosystem approach. Underpinning the UK framework are country strategies for biodiversity in each of the four countries of the UK. These include further priorities and are supported by additional measures and indicators, reflecting the countries’ different priorities and means of delivery.

Chapter 3 describes how the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and the country strategies seek to promote conservation of biodiversity as a cross-government responsibility, with leadership from all departments to their stakeholders. To halt biodiversity loss, the strategies seek to make biodiversity part of the mainstream of policies and incorporate the relevant UK BAP targets at the country level. In each country there is a statutory requirement on public bodies to take account of biodiversity conservation when undertaking their functions. Chapter 3 also provides information on how biodiversity considerations are integrated into decision making, by all relevant sectors. The report does not attempt to be comprehensive; rather the text provides examples of the sorts of approach that are being taken in each country.

Implementation of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan has been very successful when resources are targeted at conserving particular species and habitats.

Chapter 4 uses a small set of biodiversity indicators to review progress in the UK towards the 2010 target and the global goals and targets agreed by the CBD. The chapter concludes with some views on the future orientation of the Convention.

The first version of the UK biodiversity indicators was published in June 2007 (www.jncc.gov.uk/biyp). The indicators were updated on the web in May 2008 and again in April 2009.

The indicators show positive outcomes for biodiversity in some areas, for example increases in populations of bats and other priority species, and plant diversity in arable fields. For other components of biodiversity such as woodland and water birds, butterflies and priority habitats, previous declines have been slowed or halted. However the indicators show continuing or accelerating declines in the populations of breeding farmland and seabirds, wintering waterbirds and plant diversity in woodland, grassland and field boundaries.

The indicators show that major efforts have been made to address the threats to biodiversity with more sustainable use of farmland, forestry and fisheries, controls on air pollution and improved water quality. However threats from invasive species have increased in marine and terrestrial ecosystems and climate change impacts on biodiversity are being observed.

The indicators show that specific actions to tackle biodiversity decline (i.e. responses) have increased, with strong positive trends in finance, volunteering and the condition of protected areas.

Taken together, we can conclude that the rapid declines in biodiversity in the UK during the last quarter of the 20th century have been substantially slowed and in some cases halted or reversed, and that efforts to address these declines through spending and public engagement have increased. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that there is a lot more to do.

The three aims of the Convention are as critical today as they were in 1992, but the understanding of the relationship between conservation, sustainable use and access and benefit sharing, and their significance for human well-being, has developed significantly and become more widely appreciated. The Convention, and the 2010 target in particular, have been a major motivation for Parties to develop their own policies, strategies and action plans to address these aims, building on the shared experience and guidance brought together in the Programmes of Work of the Convention. The Convention has also helped to mobilise civil society and improved channels for them to communicate with governments and work in partnership to deliver shared objectives. The Convention has provided a stimulus to scientific endeavour and a focus for capacity building and transfer of resources to developing countries.

Whilst there has been substantial progress since 1992, there remain some significant issues to be addressed in improvements to the Convention:


  • We need to communicate more effectively about what the Convention aims to do;

  • The Parties need to agree on priorities which allow for a more concerted effort to make progress on the most important issues.

  • To ensure the three aims of the Convention are met taking into account not just environmental but also social and economic issues, the ecosystem approach needs to be more widely promoted as a framework that can underpin all activities.

  • More work is required to ensure that the Convention is appropriately acknowledged in other international agreements, that consistent and mutually-beneficial decisions are made, that duplication is avoided and that reporting obligations are coordinated.

  • A stronger and improved interface between science and policy is needed, including the means by which SBSTTA acquires and evaluates scientific findings, support for scientific capacity building, and assessments of status and trends in biodiversity and ecosystem services.

  • It is essential that there is a new global target for biodiversity that engages the public and emphasises the link between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human health and well-being, and consumption of natural resources. The new target should be challenging but achievable and capable of assessment.

After the report, appendices are presented giving:

  • contact details for submission of the report and the process for its development;

  • key sources of information about the UK’s biodiversity;

  • progress in implementing the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation;

  • progress against the targets of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas;

  • an overview of the UK biodiversity indicators;
  • statements from some of the UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.


Chapter I - Overview of Biodiversity Status, Trends and Threats

frame1

1.1 Introduction

For a highly industrialized and populous country, with a temperate climate, the UK has a wide variety of ecosystems and species. The main factors that lead to this biodiversity are the diversity of geology, landforms and sea floors, the long history of land management, the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, and a large tidal range. These factors create:


  • productive and varied seas which harbour globally significant numbers of fish, seabirds and sea mammals;

  • abundant and diverse wildlife along a great length of coastline that comprise high cliffs, expanses of productive estuarine habitats on which wintering waterbirds can be found in densities as high as anywhere else in the world, and many thousands of islands;

  • a patchwork mix of traditional land uses, semi natural habitats and settlements in the South and East that include important areas for biodiversity such as heathlands, bluebell woods, chalk downland, broads, fens and hundreds of protected natural areas;

  • wet oakwoods along the western seaboard, supporting endemic mosses, ferns, lichens and liverworts;

  • large tracts of sparsely populated upland and mountain areas of the North and West that support many relict populations of species surviving from the last Ice Age and provide a wealth of ‘ecosystem services’ in the form of water provision, carbon capture in the continually forming peat and traditional practices such as grouse shooting and the distillation of whisky;

  • an intricate web of freshwater habitats including rivers, lochs, freshwater lakes, waterfalls, coastal lagoons, reedbeds etc.

The species within this varied landscape are also diverse but there are relatively few species that are endemic or at high risk of global extinction. At a global scale, the IUCN Red Data Books list 51 species found within the UK that are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered: marine fish and marine mammals are quite prominent amongst these.

Of the 1,150 species recently identified as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as the priorities for national conservation action, 18% (211 species) have UK populations representing more than 25% of the total for the EU Atlantic biogeographic region. These are broken down as follows: Birds 23; Mammals 1; Invertebrates 56; Higher Plants 52; Lower Plants 71; Other 8.

More information on the status trends and threats to UK biodiversity can be found via the links to websites listed in Box 1.

The UK has many surveillance and recording schemes that contribute information on the status and trends of biodiversity and the threats it faces (see http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-3713). These schemes provide a wealth of biodiversity-related information across a broad range of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species and habitats, and provide a basis by which trends, current status of and threats to UK biodiversity can be assessed. Some of these data are fed into a suite of headline indicators which provide an overview of the state of the UK’s biodiversity and the progress made towards the 2010 target (see http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-4229). For certain bird and some mammal species and plankton the UK holds systematic survey data spanning 30 years or more. In addition, there is a mass of longer-term biological records, which cover many thousands of individual species across most taxonomic groups and a variety of relevant habitat types. All together, this information makes the UK one of richest nations in terms of ecological data, but it is only in relatively recent times that major efforts have been made to properly co-ordinate, collate and assess this data specifically with conservation in mind.

1.2 Political structure of the UK.

Most policy development and implementation, including nature conservation, is the responsibility of the devolved administrations for England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland which collectively make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Figure 1 provides two maps to illustrate (a) how the area of the UK is divided between these 4 countries and (b) topography across this area.







Figure 1. a) UK country boundaries.

b) Topography of the UK.

http://www.wind-power-program.com/Pictures/Wind%20speed%20data%20images/wind%20and%20topography%20maps.jpg

frame2

1.3 Terrestrial Habitats

1.3.1. Extent of broad habitats

A total of 16 Broad Habitat types are recognised as the basis of a comprehensive framework for surveillance and reporting on the status of the wider UK countryside. Changes between the first countryside survey in 1998 and the third in 2007 are summarised in Table 1. The extent of five habitats (Broadleaved Woodland, three of the Grassland types and Standing Waters) increased, whereas two (Arable land and Bracken) decreased. The remaining nine habitats showed no significant change. A number of the changes were inter-related: Broadleaved Woodland expanded due to the conversion of former areas of coniferous woodland and afforestation of farmland and the decline in Bracken was partly reflected in the increase in Acid Grassland.


Table 1. Estimated coverage (area and percentage of UK surface area) for UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Broad Habitats as recorded by Countryside Survey in 1998 and 20071. The final column identifies the direction of any statistically significant changes (p<0.05).




1998

2007

Change 1998-2007

Direction of significant changes

000 ha

% area of UK

000 ha

% area of UK

000 ha

%

Arable & Horticulture

5124

21.3

4657

19.4

-467

-9.1

down

Coniferous Woodland


1448

6.0

1380

5.7

-69

-4.7

-

Bracken

318

1.3

263

1.1

-55

-17.4

down

Fen, Marsh, Swamp

479

2.0

439

1.8

-40

-8.3

-

Inland Rock

119

0.5

106

0.4

-13

-10.9


-

Rivers and Streams

70

0.3

64

0.3

0

0

-

Calcareous Grassland

63

0.3

59

0.2

-4

-6.3

-

Montane

41

0.2

42

0.2

1

2.4

-

Bog

2386

9.9

2393

10.0

7

0.3

-

Standing Open Waters

258

1.1


265

1.1

5

1.9

-

Dwarf Shrub Heath

1313

5.5

1360

5.7

47

3.6

-

Built-up Areas & Gardens

1336

5.6

1397

5.8

61

4.6

-

Acid Grassland

1516

6.3

1599

6.7

83

5.5

up

Broadleaved, Mixed & Yew Woodland

1392

5.8


1488

6.2

96

6.9

up

Neutral Grassland

2271

9.5

2407

10.0

136

6.0

up

Improved Grassland

4806

20.0

5067

21.1

261

5.4

up

Total

24017

100

24043

100









Generally speaking, changes in the extent of BAP Broad Habitats can be seen as potentially positive in biodiversity conservation terms. The changes identified are broadly in line with conservation objectives expressed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Conversion of arable and horticulture habitat to improved or neutral grassland and the increases in plant species richness within surviving arable habitats suggests that arable landscapes have generally become more diverse, with more agricultural land left unfarmed, cereal field margins and areas of neutral grassland. This should benefit farmland biodiversity. On the other hand, there is a continuing trend for ‘managed’ hedges to revert to relict hedges or lines of trees/shrubs, though nearly half of hedges are assessed as in good condition.

1.3.2. Extent of boundary and linear features

Much of the UK countryside is dominated by agricultural fields, which are typically bounded by lines of hedges, trees, walls, banks, grassy strips, and/or fences. Many of these linear features provide a useful habitat for a range of wildlife species and are also monitored through countryside surveys.

Across Great Britain (excludes Northern Ireland), ‘managed’ hedgerows (excluding relict hedges and lines of trees), as recorded by Countryside Survey, showed a 6% decrease between 1998 and 2007 following a sharp decline from 1984 to 1990 and a period of stability from 1990 to 1998.  A large proportion of these ‘managed’ hedges turned into lines of trees and relict hedges due mainly to lack of management.  ‘Managed’ hedges have significant biodiversity benefits but continual neglect results in them having negligible value for wildlife.

1.3.3. Condition of habitats and other countryside features



Various vegetation condition measures were recorded as part of countryside surveys in Great Britain (Table 2). The suggestion is that for standing waters, neutral, improved and acid grasslands, and broad leaved woodlands, the situation is improving but that for arable lands and bracken, the situation is deteriorating. For other habitat types the picture is indeterminate or mixed.

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