Biodiversity duty reporting: guidance

This guidance has been superseded by guidance at

1 Introduction

1.1 What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variety of living things around us. This includes plants, insects, fish and animals. The definition of biodiversity is:

Biological diversity - or biodiversity - is a term we use to describe the variety of life on Earth. (Convention on Biological Diversity) [1]

Biodiversity refers to:

  • The wide variety of living organisms - animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and other simple microorganisms;
  • Genetic variation within species; and
  • The variety of habitats and ecosystems - different ways that organisms interact with one another and their environment.

Scotland's rich and varied landscape supports approximately 90,000 species of plant, animal and microbes [2] . However, pressures such as pollution, habitat degradation and climate change have caused a decline in the biodiversity within Scotland.

The Scottish Government has developed a biodiversity strategy ( 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity), which set outs the key steps needed to protect and restore Scotland's biodiversity. The Scottish Government has also produced a route map ( Scotland's Biodiversity: a Route Map to 2020) to help direct priorities for action with Six Big Steps for Nature:

  • 1. Ecosystem restoration: to reverse historical losses of habitats and ecosystems, to meet the Aichi target [3] of restoring 15% of degraded ecosystems;
  • 2. Investment in natural capital: to ensure the benefits which nature provides are better understood and appreciated, leading to better management of our renewable and non- renewable natural assets;
  • 3. Quality greenspace for health and education benefits: to ensure that the majority of people derive increased benefits from contact with nature where they live and work;
  • 4. Conserving wildlife in Scotland: to secure the future of priority habitats and species;
  • 5. Sustainable management of land and freshwater: to ensure that environmental, social and economic elements are well balanced; and
  • 6. Sustainable management of marine and coastal ecosystems: to secure a healthy balance between environmental, social and economic elements.

1.2 The Biodiversity Duty

The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 places a statutory duty on all public sector bodies in Scotland to further the conservation of biodiversity.

"It is the duty of every public body and office holder, in exercising any functions, to further the conservation of biodiversity so far as it is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions"

The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 (commonly known as the WANE Act) came into force on 1 January 2012 and introduced a requirement for all public bodies to make a report publicly available on their compliance with biodiversity duty. Biodiversity duty reports are required every three years.

This biodiversity duty is about connecting people with the environment and managing biodiversity in the wider environment all around us, not just in specific protected sites.

  • Public bodies already established in 2011 were due to produce and publish their first report by 1 January 2015 to cover activities carried out during 2012 to 2014 inclusive.
  • The second report will be due by 1 January 2018 and is to cover activities carried out in 2015 to 2017 inclusive.
  • Public bodies established after 1 January 2012 are required to produce a biodiversity duty report within three years of the date of their establishment and every three years thereafter.

Biodiversity duty reports can be part of an existing report or as a standalone document but they must be publicly available.

Whilst the WANE Act does not specify where biodiversity duty reports should be published, it is preferable for them to be available online.

1.3 How is biodiversity relevant to your public body?

All Scottish public bodies have a statutory duty to further the conservation of biodiversity. Understanding how your organisation's role and activities impact or link to biodiversity is the first step to identifying actions that you can implement.

Scottish Natural Heritage has developed a checklist to help you identify how your organisation links to biodiversity. The checklist includes a set of questions for your organisation to consider:

☐ Do you have an Environmental Management System?

☐ Is your organisation involved in the management and/or use of land or natural resources?

☐ Are you involved in healthcare or social services provision?

☐ Are you involved in the provision or promotion of sport and recreation, or tourism?

☐ Are you involved in the provision of education?

☐ Are you involved in promoting business development and regeneration?

☐ Are you involved in conserving and enhancing cultural and built heritage?

☐ Are you involved with implementing action for the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy ( SBS), its associated working groups, or with any local biodiversity partnerships, habitat or species action plans?

If your organisation can answer yes to any of these questions, there are likely to be several different types of activity that you can undertake to directly benefit biodiversity within Scotland.

If your organisation answers no to all of these questions, there are still general steps that you can take to benefit biodiversity. Examples include:

  • Providing opportunities for staff volunteering for activities such as native tree planting or litter picks;
  • Encouraging staff to engage with the natural environment by purchasing a corporate membership to a biodiversity focused organisation or charity;
  • Purchasing green or sustainable supplies such as organic/seasonal food or sustainably produced paper; and
  • Reducing waste to landfill through recycling and composting.

Further activities can be found in this guidance in the example actions section.

For the full checklist and further information see:

1.4 Background to this guidance document

Prior to production of the first round of biodiversity duty reports, the Local Biodiversity Action Plan ( LBAP) officer network developed a template for public bodies to follow, should they wish. This was originally published on the Biodiversity Scotland Internet site [4] .

Following publication of the first round of reports in January 2015, the Scottish Government commissioned an evaluation of the reports and the process that was followed to produce the reports. The findings from the evaluation were used to inform the development of this guidance and also minor revisions to the template.

This guidance also provides the revised template. It incorporates comments from public bodies with the aim of setting out an approach that is tailored towards the different types of organisations and the opportunities they have to influence or undertake biodiversity conservation. It also includes examples of the type of information required under each section, as well as links to reports that demonstrate good practice.

1.5 Structure of this guidance document

The guidance has been developed to take account of the differing levels of opportunity that public bodies have in terms of being able to deliver biodiversity actions. The first section therefore helps you to identify your organisation's level of opportunity, and hence the guidance sections that are most relevant to you.

The remainder of the guidance includes the following sections:

  • Section 2: Support with the template: this section provides information to help you complete each of the seven template sections. Note that you do not have to use the template if you prefer to develop your own format;
  • Section 4: Example actions: this section lists example biodiversity actions, including activities reported in the first round of biodiversity duty reports;
  • Annex 1 includes the revised template; and
  • Annex 2 provides a list of biodiversity duty reports identified during the evaluation study. Web links are included. Note that other public bodies may have produced reports, but these could not be located by the study team.

1.6 Identifying the relevant sections for your organisation

There are two main characteristics that affect the range of biodiversity related activities that a public body could potentially carry out. These are:

  • Whether the public body owns or is responsible for land and/or assets; and
  • Whether the public body's main responsibilities are linked to or involve biodiversity.

Public bodies that own land and whose main responsibilities are linked to or involve biodiversity ( e.g. planning), can potentially carry out a wider range of biodiversity related activities than those public bodies that do not have any assets and do not include management of biodiversity as one of their key functions. As an illustration, where a public body owns land it could ensure that the land was managed to provide suitable habitat for a particular species. This activity is not available to an organisation that does not own land, irrespective of funding or staffing levels.

Small public bodies may find it particularly difficult to know what actions to undertake as resources (time, staff and budget) are likely to be limited. In these cases, actions undertaken as part of sustainability measures can be a good starting point, especially where a public body does not have any control over land or assets. Sustainability actions that bring knock-on benefits for biodiversity could include:

  • Decreasing water consumption. This can benefit aquatic habitats, since it means that less water needs to be abstracted for human use;
  • Having a sustainable procurement policy for office materials. For example, obtaining paper from certified sources ensures that forests are well managed with any felled trees replaced. This avoids the loss of woodland habitats;
  • Sourcing organic food. Using organic (and preferably local) food means that fewer chemicals will have been used in its production. This will benefit farmland species;
  • Making sure that any compost used ( e.g. in window boxes) does not contain peat. This helps avoid the destruction of peat bogs; and
  • Using environmentally friendly cleaning products. This minimises the impacts on aquatic species when cleaning products are washed down the drain.

Note that to comply with the biodiversity duty, reported actions need to have a direct impact on biodiversity.

Figure 1 (overleaf) is designed to help you identify which sections of the guidance are most relevant to you based on the above two characteristics (first set of bullets). It enables you to identify the likely level of opportunity that your organisation has to carry out biodiversity activities.

Figure 1: Flow chart to enable you to identify the opportunities your public body may have for biodiversity

Figure 1: Flow chart to enable you to identify the opportunities your public body may have for biodiversity

This guidance provides tables showing what information you may wish to include within each section of your biodiversity duty report, dependent on the opportunities that may be available to you. The opportunities are classified as:

  • Smaller set of opportunities (yellow cells);
  • Moderate range of opportunities (orange cells); and
  • Wide range of opportunities (green cells).

The examples included are intended to be illustrative only; you do not have to include the information suggested. You might also find that you have examples for your organisation that are included under a different level of opportunity. This is fine. The template is designed to be flexible and to provide you with ideas of the sort of information you might include.

1.7 The template

The template (see Annex 1) is divided into seven sections:

1. Introductory information

2. Mainstreaming

3. Actions taken to improve biodiversity conservation

4. Monitoring

5. Partnership working and biodiversity communications

6. Biodiversity highlights and challenges

7. Contribution to targets

For each of the template sections, this guidance document includes tables that set out:

  • The information to include (in the left-hand column); and
  • Examples organised by opportunity (in the right-hand column).

The examples are taken from the first round of biodiversity duty reports so reflect actual information that organisations with similar opportunities were able to report. See Chapter 4 for more example actions. The final row in each table gives you links to reports from the first round that provide good practice for each of the sections and are intended to help you as you identify what to include in your own report. Please note that the example reports listed are for reference purposes only. They do not intend to categorise the named organisations as having a smaller, moderate or wide range of opportunities.


Email: Land Use and Biodiversity Team,

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