Scottish Biodiversity Strategy: progress report 2014-2016

Report setting out progress on our ambitions for Scotland’s biodiversity.

1 Introduction

This is the fourth report detailing progress on the implementation of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. It covers the period 2014 - 2016. The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 requires a report on the implementation of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy to be laid in the Scottish Parliament at the end of every three year period following its adoption. Previous progress reports were laid in 2007, 2010 and 2014.

The 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity was published in 2013 to take into account the international Aichi targets agreed as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010 and the European Union Biodiversity Strategy published in 2011. The 2020 Challenge updated the previous strategy - Scottish Biodiversity Strategy; It's in Your Hands (2004) and both documents constitute the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.

The following section introduces the background and scope of the Strategy and key steps in its implementation since 2013; section 2 provides information on progress towards the seven 2020 Challenge outcomes, and section 3 looks ahead to what is still required to ensure we achieve the 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity. While this report focuses on the implementation of the 2020 Challenge, further information on some of the work it refers too can be found in the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) progress report on implementation of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy - a Route Map to 2020.

International framework and obligations

The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy itself sits within a broad framework encompassing global, EU, UK and Scottish conventions, legislation and policy - see box 1.

Box 1: The policy framework for biodiversity

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Scotland is one of the first countries in the world to sign up the new United Nations sustainable development goals which seek global common action to tackle poverty and inequality and promote sustainable development across the globe. Progress with the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy will contribute to many of the 17 development goals, with two directly related to biodiversity conservation itself e.g.

  • Goal 14 Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Goal 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Convention on Biological Diversity

At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio De Janerio, Brazil in 1992 the first global strategy for biodiversity was ratified. At the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in October 2010, a revised and updated Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, covering 2011-2020 was adopted.

European Union Biodiversity Strategy

The European Union Biodiversity Strategy May 2011 builds on achievements to 2010 but also recognises that more needs to be done. This new approach to maintaining biodiversity aims to bring down high species-extinction rates by 2020, restore natural ecosystems in the European Union as far as possible, and contribute more to averting a global problem.

UK Biodiversity Framework

Since the publication in 2007 of Conserving Biodiversity - the UK approach, the context in which the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is implemented in the UK has changed. A UK Biodiversity Framework identifies the activities needed to galvanise and complement country strategies, in pursuit of the Aichi targets.

Scottish Biodiversity Strategy

The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy: It's in Your Hands 2004 was supplemented in 2013 by the 2020 Challenge for Scotland's biodiversity as a response to new international Aichi targets. The Route Map to 2020, published in 2015, identified the large-scale collaborative action required to help deliver the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy outcomes.

This report is therefore one of a number of separate reporting requirements on biodiversity which are set out in diagram 1 below.

In addition to this national reporting framework, public sector bodies are required to report individually every 3 years on the delivery of their biodiversity duty under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. Biodiversity Duty Guidance is provided to help public bodies with their reporting. Recent Scottish Government research[1] has found that 61 (44%) of all public bodies have now produced a Biodiversity Duty report, including 30 out of the 32 local authorities. The work identified in the reports contributed to 12 of the 20 Aichi Targets.

Diagram 1. Key reporting requirements for Biodiversity in Scotland

Scotland's approach to biodiversity

Our country is very much defined by its nature and landscapes. Our range of habitats on land and sea that support some 90,000 species are a significant part of what makes Scotland special. They inspire our art and literature. They support our health, well-being and development. They provide for us the ecosystem services that sustain life and underpin Scotland's economy. The quality of our environment and the products that come from it gives Scotland a trading advantage as a small European nation. Activities which depend directly on the natural environment are estimated to realise between £17.1 billion a year, or 11% of total Scottish output[2]. They support 242,000 jobs, or 14% of all full time jobs in Scotland[3].

The effective conservation and enhancement of biodiversity therefore plays an essential role in meeting the Scottish Government's vision of smart, sustainable and successful Scotland. It is an integral aspect of Scotland's Economic Strategy, the Land Use Strategy 2016-2021, the National Planning Framework 3 and the National Marine Plan. Through many international conventions and agreements Scotland also works with other countries to protect and enhance biodiversity, especially in relation to migratory species - see box 2.

Box 2: Working internationally

Many of the species that occur in Scotland are migratory and rely on the availability of suitable habitat either seasonally or as stepping stones on their annual migrations. Scotland helps biodiversity in a wider sense by providing such habitat and thereby assisting the conservation measures adopted in other countries.

Whooper swans breed in Iceland and other parts of the arctic but migrate to the UK for the winter. Scotland has established a number of Special Protection Areas (SPA) designed to ensure that they can thrive during this winter period. These include the Upper Solway Flats and Marshes, Loch of Strathbeg and River Spey - Insh Marshes. Collectively these SPAs support many hundred whooper swans and provide safe roosting and foraging areas

Some wading birds, such as knot and bar-tailed godwit, have long and complex migrations and rely on a sequence of sites during their autumn and spring migrations. Some of Scotland's big east coast estuarine SPAs, such as the Moray Firth, the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth provide such stepping stones and contribute to the network of such sites in England, the Netherlands and Germany.

Scotland's changing biodiversity

Scotland's biodiversity continues to change. A number of species are doing well and others are extending their range across and into Scotland as a result of climate change, investment in habitat management and restoration, and a range of positive conservation measures for species. For example, as a result of focused action; Greenland White-fronted geese and sea eagles have extended their populations through active management and reintroduction. Species of plants associated with woodlands, grassland and health such as green shield moss and lesser butterfly-orchid have benefited through identification of new sites and a greater understanding of species needs. The Species Action Framework (SAF) Handbook, published by SNH in 2016 and delivered with over 100 partners provides new information and management guidance for 32 species in Scotland.

At the same time, the range and population of some species are declining as a result of a range of social, economic and environmental factors, including;

  • Pollution - from industry, agriculture and road traffic, which impacts on waterways, uplands, air quality and sensitive habitats across Scotland;
  • Land use intensification and modification - changes in agricultural production and built development can lead to a reduction of diversity, quality and connectivity of landscapes and habitats;
  • Spread of invasive species and wildlife disease - much of this has arisen from a growing global trade of plants and animals;
  • Lack of recognition of the value of nature - the vital benefits that healthy stocks of nature, or 'natural capital', provide to society are not fully recognised or appreciated and therefore are not sufficiently considered in decision making;
  • Disconnection with nature - many people in society are disconnected with nature and therefore undervalue its contribution to their well-being and prosperity, and to wider society;
  • Climate change - is causing a shift in weather patterns which are affecting nature across Scotland. In the seas warming, acidification and sea level rise are becoming evident, and wetter conditions on land, especially in the west are predicted; and
  • Use of marine resources - mainly in the form of some commercial fisheries and fishing which have profoundly changed the abundance and resilience of some species, such as cod, and altered marine habitats.

The story of biodiversity change in Scotland is therefore complex, with success requiring a long term approach to managing environmental change that allows nature to flourish in ways which maximise benefits to people, alongside our traditional efforts to protect wildlife and restore habitats.

Aims and outcomes

Against this background, the 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity sets out three aims achieved through seven outcomes. A suite of biodiversity and people engagement indicators are used to describe progress across the Strategy outcomes.

The aims provide a broad framework which support the Scottish Government's purpose of 'creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth'.

  • Protect and restore biodiversity on land and sea, and through action to support healthier ecosystems and restore species and habitats.
  • Connect more people with the natural world, for their health and well-being and to involve more of them in decisions about their environment.
  • Maximise the benefits of a diverse natural environment and the range of social and economic goods and services it provides.

To achieve these aims, the Strategy identifies seven outcomes:

Outcome 1: Scotland's ecosystems are restored to good ecological health so that they provide robust ecosystem services and build our natural capital.

Outcome 2: Natural resources contribute to stronger sustainable economic growth in Scotland, and we increase our natural capital to pass on to the next generation.

Outcome 3: Improved health and quality of life for the people of Scotland, through investment in the care of green space, nature and landscapes.

Outcome 4: The special value and international importance of Scotland's nature and geodiversity is assured, wildlife is faring well, and we have a highly effective network of protected places.

Outcome 5: Nature is faring well, and ecosystems are resilient as a result of sustainable land and water management.

Outcome 6: Scotland's marine and coastal environments are clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse meeting the long-term needs of people and nature.

Outcome 7: A framework of indicators that we can use to track progress.

Section 2 of this report describes progress on each of these outcomes and a sub-set of relevant indicators are used to assist in reporting at outcome level. Annex 1 shows how each of these outcomes are linked to international Aichi targets.

A Route Map to 2020 - Delivery through partnership and collaboration

There is a wide range of activity required to implement the Strategy. A cornerstone of Scotland's approach to biodiversity is partnership working and collaboration between individuals, organisations and across public and private sectors.

To provide greater focus to this effort, one of the most significant developments since the last Report to the Scottish Parliament has been the preparation of a Scottish Biodiversity Strategy - Route Map to 2020. Published in 2015, the Route Map identifies large-scale collaborative action which contributes to the outcomes of the 2020 Challenge. It contains an ambitious programme of activity structured around 12 Priority Projects and targets and supported by 71 actions and 8 supporting elements of work. Collectively the work involves a large number of organisations as well as many individual land managers, NGOs and other natural resource stakeholders. The first progress report on delivery of actions within the Route Map was published in September 2016.

SNH is leading the co-ordination and delivery of the Route Map and has set up a co-ordination group and supporting working groups to assist it in this task. A number of delivery agreements with key organisations have also been developed, with more planned. SNH also organises an annual stakeholder event and produces a newsletter once a quarter.

A review of the governance arrangements for biodiversity has been undertaken and will be finalised soon. In the meantime, the biodiversity delivery support groups, in the form of the working groups, and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy Co-ordination Group (which is chaired by Scottish Natural Heritage) have continued to meet regularly and to support and coordinate the delivery of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and 'Scotland's Biodiversity - a Route Map to 2020'.

Local Biodiversity Action Partnerships (LBAPs) were established across Scotland in response to the first UK Biodiversity Action Plan in 1994. These partnerships have developed and now include many key stakeholders. LBAPs operate at a local level, to conserve and enhance biodiversity and deliver action for national priorities. They also work to protect species and habitats which are particularly important or valued locally. Although resourcing these partnerships has become more difficult as local authority budgets have been reduced, a Scottish Parliament event held in autumn 2016 to celebrate 20 years of LBAP activity clearly demonstrated both the important contribution and continued relevance of LBAP activity to the implementation of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.

We also recognise that many young people care passionately about the environment. In order to harness this enthusiasm and creativity, SNH - in partnership with Young Scot (Scotland's youth information and citizenship charity) has created the ReRoute youth panel comprising 16 young people aged between 14 and 24. The panel are helping to deliver Scotland's Biodiversity Strategy by focusing on youth involvement on each of the Big Steps in the Route Map. Working together on residential trips every few months, the panel members are exploring issues and solutions for getting more youth involvement in nature, as well as how environmental organisations work and engage young people in their work. The panel will conclude its work in 2018 with biodiversity related events as part of Year of Young People.



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