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A Consultation on the 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity: An Analysis of Consultation Responses

An analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on the 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity.


8. MEASURING PROGRESS

Questions
7a) Does chapter seven propose the right approach to reach the outcome that we have a clear framework of indicators against which we can track progress?

7b) What additional steps can you propose, including things that you, or your organisation, can do?

Outcome
A clear framework of indicators against which we can track progress.

Key steps
A suite of indicators will be developed so that we can monitor progress in meeting the Aichi Targets leading up to 2020.

A Scottish Biodiversity Information Forum will be set up to enable us to collect and use biodiversity data in Scotland.

The responses

8.1 Fifty nine respondents offered comments on question 7a, whilst 34 commented on question 7b. Many respondents agreed or broadly agreed with the approach, but in around half of the responses it was not possible to determine whether respondents agreed or disagreed. In any event, most respondents suggested qualifications or suggestions for improvement. Only a few respondents disagreed outright.

Development of an indicator suite for monitoring progress on Aichi Targets

The need for indicators

8.2 A number of respondents stated support for the principle of developing a suite of reliable indicators to monitor progress against biodiversity targets. This support was demonstrated across the stakeholder groups. One local authority respondent noted that this has been a problematic issue in the existing approach to biodiversity, especially locally. Another welcomed the explicit recognition of the link between understanding the importance of biodiversity and strong decision making. A few respondents from the public sector agreed that indicators linked to Scotland's distinctive biogeography were appropriate, but questioned the need for indicators to reflect 'devolved interests' and 'political identity' as described in the Strategy.

8.3 A number of respondents commented that they found the discussion of indicators to be short and lacking in detail, and felt that the strategy should articulate more clearly the agenda for improvement and the steps required. A few respondents felt that elements of the discussion were confusing or ambiguous (for example, regarding whether species specific or ecosystem management actions are prioritised). One respondent questioned the value of the proposed suite in terms of providing a better indicator of ecosystem health, as opposed to monitoring conservation outcomes.

Targets and existing indicators

8.4 A number of respondents commented on the targets and existing indicators set out in table two. A few respondents explicitly welcomed the inclusion of table two setting out the links between Aichi Targets, strategy outcomes and indicators. Several respondents commented specifically on the Aichi Targets and their inclusion in table two. Issues raised included: requests for more detail on how the targets (including the EU Biodiversity Target to half biodiversity loss by 2020) will be measured; mismatches between Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) Strategic Goals, Aichi Targets and indicators in the table itself; and a request for the Aichi Targets to be summarised in the table. One respondent argued that the Strategy does not give sufficient weight to the Aichi targets (or the Nagoya Outcomes) and another argued for legislation to back the targets.

8.5 A few respondents requested detail on progress against the existing indicators. A small number of respondents argued for specific targets and dates for their achievement to be set out within the Strategy.

8.6 Several respondents commented that the targets and/or indicators in table two should be more specific and measurable. Others commented on other existing biodiversity indicators not mentioned in the chapter, including a query as to how the indicators in the table relate to existing indicators of ecosystem health such as those developed by the National Biodiversity Forum.

8.7 A few respondents felt that there was insufficient detail provided on what information is needed to assess progress towards the Strategy's outcomes, and called for the Strategy to set out a research agenda in more explicit terms.

Delivering the proposed indicator suite

8.8 A few public sector respondents emphasised how time consuming it may be to develop a suite of reliable indicators and suggested that given the timescale of the strategy, there may be little time left for monitoring the indicators once developed. Another respondent stated concern that no timescale is set out for the development of the indicator suite. One local authority argued for the importance of confirming the indicators as soon as possible so that they can be reflected in Single Outcome Agreements. The importance of reviewing the indicators that are currently available and building on existing indicators as far as possible was noted.

Issues for consideration in indicator development

8.9 Several respondents, primarily local authorities, discussed issues of scale in relation to the proposed indicator suite. They argued for local level data on the biodiversity indicators in order to inform local policy and action. One local authority emphasised that not all indicators are suitable for all areas and called for this to be recognised in the wording of the Strategy. Another suggested that the indicators of ecosystem health developed by national ecosystem working groups be identified at a national level.

8.10 There were a number of suggestions for specific additional indicators, with many of these relating to social evidence. Several respondents across the stakeholder groups called for indicators to measure the social and economic benefits of biodiversity. Two respondents supported a measure of the skills base within Scotland for identifying biodiversity. Other suggestions were for indicators of social attitudes to biodiversity, and levels of engagement (for example, through outdoor learning, membership of local groups and volunteering). A few respondents suggested other indicators relating to cultivated biodiversity (in the context of agriculture, forestry and aquaculture), soil biodiversity and geodiversity. One suggested indicators related to soil quality, use of pesticides/fungicides/insecticides, insect biodiversity, deer numbers, and proportion of local biodiversity sites under active management.

8.11 Points were raised by a few respondents regarding the priority species and habitats to be monitored using the proposed indicator suite. These included a diversity of views including: the suggestion that indicators must be representative of habitats and species under threat; a call for acknowledgement of rare habitats and species not covered in EU legislation; a request for greater recognition of non-charismatic species, noting that there is not necessarily a link between threatened species and ecosystem health; and a comment that indicators must focus on ecosystem health and not be selected simply because data already exists.

8.12 Several respondents provided general comments on the qualities of effective indicators. These included: being understandable and measurable; sensitive enough to detect change; relevant to local conditions and comparable across regions and countries if necessary; and balanced so that one area is not improved at the expense of others. A few respondents commented on the number of indicators needed, one stating that these should be sufficient but kept to a minimum, the other highlighting that because no single measure of a dimension of biodiversity is adequate, 'baskets' of indicators are most useful.

Resources and responsibilities for indicator development and monitoring

8.13 Several respondents commented on the issue of funding and resources. Whilst some argued the desirability of acknowledging the resource requirements for development of the proposed indicator suite within the chapter text, a few third sector respondents noted the Strategy should commit to maintaining and providing resources for monitoring and research activities to track progress.

8.14 Several respondents, mainly third sector organisations, requested clearly defined roles and responsibilities to be set out for delivery of the key steps and their monitoring.

Reporting progress

8.15 The importance of regular reporting on progress towards the targets was emphasised by a number of respondents, with several suggesting specific commitments to reporting that could be made within the Strategy (see paragraph 7.17). Several respondents emphasised the role of reporting in policy cycles, with some of these (primarily local authorities) suggesting building a 'monitoring-reporting-action loop' into the suite of indicators. A few questioned what action will be taken if insufficient progress is made.

Data management and communication

8.16 A number of respondents emphasised the importance of facilitating data sharing and streamlining data management. It was noted that the SBIF has already been established, so key step two should be altered accordingly. A few respondents requested greater clarity on the SBIF's role, whilst others emphasised the need to avoid duplicating effort made elsewhere.

8.17 Other issues raised in relation to the SBIF included: it should not introduce a new system for collecting data, but adopt more of a facilitation role; the SBIF could be used to better support citizen science; researchers should be included in the SBIF, in addition to government, volunteers and the private sector as stated in the Strategy; and the existence of the SBIF itself will not contribute towards the outcome as its impact will depend on action supported by adequate resources.

Sources of biodiversity data

8.18 Several respondents expressed concern over the insufficient recognition of certain sources of Scottish biodiversity data. Amongst these there were a number of comments emphasising the important role of Local Records Centres and calling for these to be recognised explicitly within the Strategy. One respondent suggested investigating ways to promote data flows from ecological surveys (for example, from those conducted to inform Environmental Impact Assessment) to Records Centres.

8.19 A few respondents called for recognition of the work of Local Biodiversity Partnerships, whilst another respondent noted that the role of conservationists and academics/researchers had been ignored.

8.20 There were a number of comments on the promotion of citizen science and volunteer collected data. Whilst several respondents explicitly welcomed these, others queried how data quality would be assured. A few respondents voiced concerns that volunteer recording only lends itself to monitoring particular taxonomic groups like birds and plants, and that cryptic diversity should also be considered. Another warned against over-reliance on volunteers and encouraged the use of data collected by stakeholder organisations and research institutions.

Other comments

8.21 A number of respondents, particularly local authorities but also other public and third sector bodies, noted ways in which they could, or already were, supporting the delivery of the Strategy in their own work. These included:

  • Adopting relevant indicators under Single Outcome Agreements.
  • Supporting recording services such as Local Record Centres.
  • Continuing to deliver and monitor Local Biodiversity Action Plan objectives and Biodiversity Duty Delivery Plans.
  • Contributing towards development of the indicator suite, including sharing previous work on indicators.
  • Training and supporting volunteers for surveys and monitoring.
  • Developing and supporting research projects and surveys.
  • Participating in the Scottish Biodiversity Information Forum.

8.22 A few third sector respondents suggested the inclusion of a further key action to ensure marine plans, RBMPs and the Scottish Land Use Strategy demonstrate biodiversity improvements through quantitative measures.

8.23 Alternative key steps were proposed by several respondents; some of these consisted of amendments to those proposed in the Strategy, however others suggested inclusion of additional key steps. Changes to the key steps were generally aimed at making them more specific and measurable. Three third sector respondents provided the same additional key steps, which are listed below. These bodies also stated that public lead bodies required to be identified for each habitat type and for each key step, alongside appropriate and adequate resources.

  • Develop a suite of indicators demonstrating the connection between biodiversity and improved health, and biodiversity and enhanced economy.
  • Minister reports annually to parliament on progress towards the outcomes in this review.
  • Public bodies report on a three yearly basis on their compliance with the biodiversity duty.
  • An enhanced role and resources for the Scottish Biodiversity Committee to lead assessment of progress towards and require corrective action where insufficient progress is being made.
  • Identify the means of measuring benefits to people's health and the Scottish economy of improved biodiversity.
  • Involve many more people in data recording and collation and in improving our understanding of the poorly known elements of nature and its role in sustaining life.
  • Ensure marine plans, River Basin Management Plans and Scottish Land Use Strategy have quantifiable measurements that demonstrate improvement in biodiversity.
  • Maintain resources for continued Site Condition Monitoring and mapping to measure progress against the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework indicator to improve the condition of protected nature sites.
  • Strengthen the biodiversity indicators in the National Performance Framework.
  • Communicate biodiversity and ecosystem health indicators in a clear and inspiring way, including through Scotland's Environment Web.
  • Ensure that the Scottish social attitude indicators properly reflect attitudes to biodiversity as a method of validating the success of communication.
  • Provide adequate resources to collate information on location, sensitivity, pressures, impacts and trends affecting terrestrial and marine habitats and species, particularly Priority Marine Features, to help support their protection, and where appropriate, recovery.

8.24 Other issues highlighted by a few respondents were:

  • That selected indicators should be monitored in the long-term beyond 2020.
  • The suggestion that an initial interim set of indicators be put in place, which could be developed in discussion between the Scottish Government and key stakeholders such as SNH and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
  • The suggestion that a section be included on involving business and industry, and on how local authorities could learn from experiences in other areas/countries.
  • A request to make provision for the inclusion of newly discovered species within the monitoring system.

Contact

Email: Biodiversity Strategy Team

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