Publication - Strategy/plan

CAMERAS: Scottish environmental monitoring strategy

Published: 5 Dec 2011
Environment and Forestry Directorate
Part of:
Environment and climate change

The Scottish environmental monitoring strategy.

CAMERAS: Scottish environmental monitoring strategy
Improving the Focus of Environmental Monitoring

Improving the Focus of Environmental Monitoring

This section provides an assessment of where the focus of environmental monitoring in Scotland could be improved by identifying areas where additional monitoring effort is required. This assessment has been undertaken at the level of significant pressures ( e.g. greenhouse gas emissions or nutrient loss) and environmental and social receptors ( e.g. marine waters, pollination and human health). The intention is to provide high-level direction that will help focus the development of monitoring across Scotland.

Current scope of environmental monitoring

The scope of environmental monitoring in Scotland is described in the supporting documentation. Monitoring activities are undertaken by different organisations according to the drivers for the work (statutory, international obligations and domestic policy). The information was extracted from the UK-EOF database. This illustrates that the emphasis of these monitoring drivers is unevenly distributed across environmental categories; a reflection of the piecemeal development of legislation.

Existing monitoring activity covers the key environmental issues; however, the effectiveness of this monitoring varies considerably. For example, legislative requirements for the comprehensive monitoring of the water environment already include the requirement to monitor pressures, the state of the environment and the consequences of environmental change. In contrast, air quality monitoring is concerned with demonstrating compliance with human health standards. As a result, the monitoring of the wider environmental consequences of changes in air quality is limited. Finally, there has been considerable discussion at a European, UK and Scottish level about the need to develop a comprehensive soil protection legislation which would include monitoring requirements but no agreement has been reached. As a result the current monitoring of soil is fragmented and unco-ordinated.

There are few legislative drivers that take a holistic view and co-ordinate monitoring across the environment and this makes it difficult to use the output from Scotland's monitoring programmes to track impacts across the environment. For example, it is not easy to track the impacts of the emission of greenhouse gases or nutrients across air, soil and water, and pick up the consequent impacts upon ecosystem services and society.

In summary, the two key weaknesses of the current environmental monitoring programme in Scotland are:

  • an uneven distribution of monitoring resources across the environment/society that does not reflect the risk of harm
  • limited ability to track the effects of pressures across the environment and society

Given these gaps it is important to enhance the future coordination of effort between organisations and to focus on priority area for future monitoring activity.

Improving the distribution of monitoring

This section identifies where monitoring requires further development. Its intention is to promote an allocation of monitoring resources in a manner that reflects the risks of environmental harm and the relative importance of any environmental and social consequences.

Table 1 identifies four ecosystem types, one ecosystem service and one attribute of society where monitoring requires further development (see supporting documentation for the explanation of the method used).

Table 1. Receptors requiring further development of environmental monitoring

Ecosystem Description
Soil Non-renewable resource which supports biodiversity and agricultural production. No co-ordinated monitoring programme in place.
Peatland and wetlands Subject to a wide range of pressures, supports high biodiversity and an important carbon store. No
co-ordinated monitoring programme in place.
Marine waters Subject to wide range of pressures and an important food source. There is a co-ordinated monitoring programme but needs to be further developed.
Air Subject to a wide range of pressures and has direct impacts upon biodiversity, human health and wellbeing. Current monitoring programme focuses on compliance with human health derived standards and there is limited monitoring of environmental consequences.
Ecosystem services
Pollination Serious concerns about a range of impacts upon pollination but limited understanding of its actual impact upon crop production or biodiversity and any subsequent economic consequences. There is no
co-ordinated monitoring programme in Scotland.
Human health A wide range of environmental impacts have the potential to affect human health but limited monitoring of direct impact on human health is undertaken.

It is important to stress that, furthermore, detailed priorities will be developed as a result of work on the detailed strategies described in the implementation section of this document. For example, work on rivers have not been identified as a priority in Table 1, however, the development of a detailed monitoring strategy for freshwater may identify that improving the monitoring of fish populations in lochs should be a priority.

Improving the monitoring of impacts across environment and society

This section identifies those pressures on the environment where a co-ordinated programme of monitoring is required to assess impacts across the environment and society. The intention is to improve the ability of Scotland's monitoring programme to track the environmental and social consequences of key pressures. The supporting documentation describes the methodology used to identify where there are weaknesses in the current environmental monitoring programme.

The pressures listed in Table 2 include some of the most important pressures upon the environment. They have a wide impact across the environment and society but the overall effectiveness of the monitoring of their impacts upon the environment and society was not considered to be good.

Table 2. Pressures which require further development of monitoring

Pressure Description
Greenhouse gases Input of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and the subsequence impacts upon the environment and society.
Invasive species Impacts caused by the spread of invasive species.
Nutrients Input of nutrients and their cycling within the environment and subsequent impacts upon ecology and society.
Land management The consequences of unsustainable land-use management practices upon the physical/morphological condition of land and its subsequent impacts upon the environment and society. This includes soil compaction, erosion, ploughing, overgrazing and drainage.
Hazardous substances Input of hazardous substances which are toxic and which may be persistent and bio-accumulate.

Table 3 lists the pressures where the monitoring was regarded as particularly poor. Four of the pressures are commonly covered by the term nuisance (litter, noise, light and odour) these cause limited environmental harm but significant impacts upon society. Typically, they have a high profile in lists of public concern. Being unable to describe their impacts adequately is a serious weakness in environmental monitoring in Scotland. Two of the pressures listed (ozone precursors and fishing) have potentially significant impacts upon parts of the environment and our understanding has been historically limited by difficulties in method development.

Table 3. Significant pressures where existing monitoring is poor

Pressure Description
Litter Scale of problem associated with litter and its environmental, social and economic consequences.
Noise and vibrations Scale of the problem and the impacts upon biodiversity and human health and wellbeing.
Light Scale of the problem and the impacts upon biodiversity, human health and wellbeing.
Odorous substances Scale of the problem and the impacts upon human health and wellbeing.
Ozone precursors Input of ozone precursors, distribution of ground-level ozone and its impacts upon biodiversity and agricultural production.
Commercial marine fishing Impact of fishing equipment upon the sea-bed morphology and its ecology. This does not cover the effect of fish mortality caused by fishing for which there is good monitoring data.


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