Publication - Progress report

Scottish Biodiversity Strategy: progress report 2014-2016

Published: 20 Jul 2017
Directorate:
Environment and Forestry Directorate
Part of:
Environment and climate change
ISBN:
9781786527622

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

43 page PDF

515.0 kB

43 page PDF

515.0 kB

Contents
Scottish Biodiversity Strategy: progress report 2014-2016
2 Action delivery and progress

43 page PDF

515.0 kB

2 Action delivery and progress

This section provides an overview of biodiversity action over the last three years and describes the progress that has been made in meeting the outcomes of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy 2020 Challenge.

This assessment is supported by a series of biodiversity state and people engagement indicators which were produced by a working group chaired by RSPB following the publication of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy in 2004. These indicators, alongside other data and trends, provided an evidence base from which to prioritise and develop action. There is also on-going work to finalise a set of ecosystem health indicators in 2017, providing further information on the status of our environment at a regional scale.

The following keys should be used to understand the indicators presented in this assessment.

Status

Symbol

Increased

Increased

Decreased

Decreased

Divergent

Divergent

Fluctuated

Fluctuated

Stable

Stable

Baseline

Baseline

No Data

No Data

Symbol colour

Status

Red

Requires urgent remedial action

Amber

Requires remedial action

Green

Progress on track

Indicator Category

Colour code & symbol

Biodiversity State Indicator

S

Engagement

E

Natural Heritage Indicator

N

National Performance Framework Indicator

NP

An overview of these indicators is provided in Annex 2.

In reading this section, it should be noted that measurable environmental change often takes place over a number of years. Some data collection used for indicators and trends are therefore collated on relatively long timeframes therefore not all indicators have been updated during this reporting period. Some indicators have been archived and others superseded.

2.1 Healthy Ecosystems

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

Key steps

1. Encourage and support ecosystem restoration and management (also relevant to key steps in 2.2).

2. Use assessments of ecosystem health at a catchment level to determine what needs to be done.

3. Government and public bodies will work together towards a shared agenda for action to restore ecosystem health at a catchment-scale.

4. Establish plans and decisions about land-use based on an understanding of ecosystems. Take full account of land-use impacts on the ecosystem services that underpin social, economic and environmental health.

Restoration of ecosystems have been a primary focus of activity, ensuring they support biodiversity and deliver important services for society, such as flood and climate change mitigation. Targets for restoration of peatlands, freshwaters and native woodlands are identified in the Route Map to 2020. There has been a considerable amount of activity and effort across many organisations and partnerships to restore these ecosystems.

There are many landscape scale projects underway to restore ecosystems across Scotland. These include projects close to urban populations in the central belt such as the EcoCo Life plus and Inner Forth landscape partnership projects. Projects in other areas of Scotland include the Assynt-Coigach Living Landscape and the Flows to the Future project in Sutherland.

Local authorities have led successful regional land-use pilots in the Scottish Borders and Aberdeenshire, with lessons learnt feeding into the proposals for further development of this approach in the Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021.

Peatlands

Over 10,000 hectares of peatland across Scotland have been improved through restoration management since 2013, funded through the Scottish Government's Peatland Action Fund managed by SNH. Demonstration events to share best practice help support further restoration work. Additional peatland restoration is now underway following the Scottish Government announcement in October 2016 that a further £400,000 of funding is available for this crucial work. Significant additional funding of circa £8 million funding is planned for 2017/18.

Native woodland

The Native Woodland Survey of Scotland was carried out from 2006-2013 and provided the first authoritative picture of the extent and condition of Scotland's native woodlands. The field-based survey results were released in February 2014 by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and provide valuable data to assist land managers and deer management groups identify the potential action they could take to help restore native woodlands in Scotland.

Piloting approaches to improving the condition of native woodlands designated for nature conservation are being developed, focusing on invasive non-native species and reducing herbivore impacts. FCS is working with land managers to encourage applications to the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) towards improvement in woodland condition.

An area of 7,432 hectares of new native woodland has been created by land managers with funding support through SRDP in the two years between April 2014 and April 2016. We expect that the rate of planting will increase further to meet the ambitious targets set out in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy Route Map as applicants become familiar with the new scheme.

Scottish Government commissioned SNH to provide an assessment of the current model of deer management in Scotland which was published in November 2016. The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee heard evidence about deer management and the impacts on the natural heritage from SNH and other stakeholders during November and December of 2016. The Scottish Government will respond to the report in early 2017.

Freshwaters

The second river basin management plans for Scotland were published in December 2015. These show around 10% of water bodies and six areas protected for nature conservation are adversely affected by modifications to their beds, banks and shores. The plans set targets to improve the physical condition of 52 water bodies by 2021, and to carry out studies to help design and plan improvements to the remaining 258 water bodies and six protected areas. This work is also to be completed by 2021. Further information is available on the Water Environment Hub data tool.

Survey work on all water bodies which are below good status for physical condition has been completed by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). This work will inform the location and extent of required restoration work, and flood management activities. This will provide valuable data to allow prioritisation of action. The recently published IUCN report on River Restoration and Biodiversity bridges the gap between a scientific understanding of rivers and river processes, and its practical application in restoring river habitats.

Assessing progress towards this outcome

There is only one ecosystem level indicator currently available for this outcome - see Table 1. Work is continuing on development of a suite of Ecosystem Health Indicators which will allow identification of ecosystems most in need of restoration action and enable us to monitor progress. The assessment of progress towards Aichi target 15 'Restoration of degraded ecosystems' during 2017 will also provide evidence to help describe progress towards this outcome in future reporting. Further information on Aichi target development is provided in section 2.7.

Table 1 Indicators relevant to monitoring progress on Outcome 1 - Healthy Ecosystems.

Indicator

Start

Updated

Trend

River water quality indicator[4]

1992

2015

Increased + Progress on track

The standards for measuring water quality were modified in 2013 and the impacts of this are described in the river water quality indicator. The proportion of river length classed as unpolluted rose from 83.3% in 2013 to 84% in 2015.

2.2 Natural Capital

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

Key steps

1. Encourage wider acceptance and use of the Natural Capital Index (2012) including comparable measure for the marine environment.

2. Use this index to influence decision-making and market based approaches, so that wider monetary and non-monetary values for ecosystem services are recognised and accounted for.

3. Undertake a major new programme of conservation, management and restoration (described in Section 2.1).

There is a clear recognition in Scotland that natural capital contributes to economic growth and investment in natural capital is identified as a priority in Scotland's Economic Strategy.

The Central Scotland Green Network Trust undertook research in late 2015 with over 300 senior business decision makers in central Scotland[5]. Over six in ten business who responded indicated that Scotland's natural capital was important to them and should be protected and enhanced. Over 70% considered that action to protect and enhance natural capital was urgent or extremely urgent. These findings correlate with the earlier Scottish Natural Capital survey conducted by the Scottish Forum for Natural Capital in 2014.

The National Performance Framework (NPF) provides a mechanism for monitoring progress across all Scottish Government activity. In March 2016, a new indicator on increasing natural capital was developed to complement existing indicators on improving the condition of protected nature sites; increasing the abundance of terrestrial breeding birds; increasing visits to the outdoors; and improving the state of Scotland's marine environment.

This new natural capital indicator is based on the Natural Capital Asset Index (NCAI) developed by Scottish Natural Heritage. The NCAI provides a robust and consistent framework for monitoring changes in Scotland's natural capital, helping us to make better informed decisions, based on an awareness of the relationship between nature and economic activity. When it was launched in 2011, Scotland became the first country in the world to publish such a detailed attempt to monitor annual changes in its natural capital. The NCAI was reviewed by experts in 2014, and has been subsequently revised. It continues to be updated to further refine its methodology and data.

Assessing progress towards this outcome

The NCAI monitors the quality and quantity of terrestrial habitats in Scotland, according to their potential to deliver ecosystem services now and into the future. It is a composite index, using a wide range of measures. The overall stock of natural capital in 2014 is similar to that in 2000 as shown in table 2.

Table 2 Indicator relevant to monitoring progress on Outcome 2 - Natural Capital.

Indicator

Start

Updated

Trend since 2010

Natural Capital Asset Index

2000

2014

Stable + Requires remedial action

Before 1990, Scotland's natural capital was in long term decline with the extent and condition of most habitats deteriorating, especially peatlands and grassland. Since 1990, the delivery of provisioning services - the direct products such as food, fuel and water - has stabilised or slightly improved. At the same time, there has been a reduction in our ability to provide other ecosystem services, particularly cultural ones such as recreation, education, art, and sense of place.

Inland surface water delivers a wide range of ecosystem services, including drinking water, flood management and recreation. The recovery of this habitat is a major contributor to the positive trends in Scotland's natural capital. Woodland also provides a variety of services, and the area (quantity) of woodland has increased since 2000. It is this, more than improvements in condition (quality), which has increased woodland natural capital stocks.

However, the deterioration in the condition of uplands (including peatlands and heathland) has partially offset these improvements, especially with respect to regulation & maintenance services. Our knowledge of uplands outside of protected areas is limited.

2.3 Biodiversity, health and quality of life

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

Key steps

1. Provide opportunities for everyone to experience and enjoy nature regularly, with a particular focus on disadvantaged groups.

2. Support local authorities and communities to improve local environments and enhance biodiversity using greenspace and green networks, allowing nature to flourish and enhancing the quality of life for people who live there.

3. Build on good practice being developed by the NHS and others to encourage greenspace, green exercise and social prescribing initiatives that will improve health and well-being through connecting people with nature.

4. Increase access to nature within and close to schools and support teachers in developing the role of outdoor learning across the Curriculum for Excellence.

5. Encourage public organisations and businesses to review their responsibilities and action for biodiversity (described in Section 1), and recognise that increasing their positive contribution to nature and landscape can help meet their corporate priorities and performance.

Provision of green infrastructure contributes to a range of social, economic and environmental objectives and is increasingly seen as an essential part of place-making. Outdoor activity which promotes physical activity and contact with nature has been shown to have a positive impact on our physical and mental health and well-being. Local greenspace is also an important resource for regular outdoor learning, while the care and management of nature can help build the skills and capacity of individuals and communities.

Greenspace and green networks

The Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) continues to develop momentum, with a renewed focus on improving vacant and derelict land, increasing active travel and supporting disadvantaged communities. Since 2011, a CSGN development fund supported by the Scottish Government, FCS, Transport Scotland and SNH has provided funding for 150 woodland, greenspace, active travel and community development projects across Central Scotland totalling £5.8 million. Further targeted investment is also planned in greenspace across Scotland through the SNH led ERDF green infrastructure programme, on-going support from the FCS Woods in Around Towns initiative, as well as the funding for smaller greenspace projects through the Tesco "bags of help" community fund run by Greenspace Scotland. Planning Authorities are also playing their part too, with 25 out of the 34 now having green network plans or strategies either in place or in the process of preparation (with the corresponding figures for CSGN being 17 out of 19).

Enjoying the outdoors

There are increasing opportunities for people to experience and enjoy nature in Scotland with an expanding National Walking and Cycling Network as well as greenspace projects in major cities, such as Cunnigar Loop Woodland Park in Glasgow, as well as several landscape partnerships funded by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and others. A good example of new provision is the 134-mile coast-to-coast John Muir Way developed by SNH and opened in 2014. Running from Helensburgh to Dunbar, this trail is accessible locally to 3 million people who live in the central belt of Scotland, making a valuable contribution to encouraging more visits to the outdoors. Survey data from SNH suggested that between 240,000 to 300,000 people had used the path in its first year with nearly 1 in 5 of these intending to complete the route in stages[6].

Developing Scotland's natural health service

Working with a range of partners from both the health and environment sector, SNH has led on the development of an ambitious natural health service action plan to complement and help support the existing National Health Service. The plan seeks a step change in the use of the outdoors within the health sector, and includes interventions around green infrastructure, local green health partnerships and NHS greenspace that could achieve a population-level change in activity in the outdoors across Scotland. The plan builds on the successful activity by the Greenspace Exercise Partnership (NHS-Health Scotland, NHS-Health Facilities Scotland, FCS and SNH), to help each mainland health board develop at least one quality greenspace around a hospital for use by patients, visitors and NHS staff.

Outdoor learning

Baseline research commissioned by SNH with Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment (RAFE) partners and Education Scotland, shows that there has been progress in increasing the amount of outdoor learning especially preschool and primary years since 2006, though there is room for further improvement across all sectors

SNH and other RAFE partners provide a number of opportunities for outdoor learning. In 2015/16, National Nature Reserves provided outdoor learning opportunities for nearly 3,500 school children, while SNH's funding of bodies such as Grounds for Learning, John Muir Trust and National Trust for Scotland (NTS) supported a further 60,0000 children, many from schools serving disadvantaged areas. Other provision is provided through initiatives such as the Outdoor Woodland Learning Network, National Park travel grants and Forest Schools. SNH's Teaching in Nature project has now helped 2500 pupils engage with the natural heritage via high quality Career-Long Professional Development for over 100 teachers.

A major new project - Learning in Local Greenspace - is also underway targeting the schools serving Scotland's 20% most disadvantaged communities. This will provide practical support for at least 100 of these schools and their teachers, helping them to access and use a greenspace within walking distance, embedding its use throughout the school, across the curriculum by 2020.

Volunteering

The range of volunteering opportunities has generally been maintained, with funding used to support volunteering in bodies such The Conservation Volunteers, NTS and Action Earth. These experiences are available across Scotland, offering a chance for people to get close to nature, contribute to its care and learn new skills. There are also many social benefits to be gained through friendship, shared achievement and individual challenge, all helping to build resilient communities and restoring nature.

Assessing progress towards this outcome

The relevant indicators developed for reporting on the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy; 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity are presented in Table 3. All these indicators have been updated during this reporting period on the Strategy; with the exception of E2 - Greenspace, where the original indicator has been archived and a new indicator is currently under development with Ordnance Survey.

Table 3 Indicators relevant to monitoring progress on Outcome 3 - Biodiversity, Health and Quality of Life.

No.

Indicator

Start

Updated

Trend since 2010

E1

Attitudes to biodiversity

2006

2014

Decreased + Requires urgent remedial action

E2

Greenspace

2011

2015

Increased + Progress on track

OS - spatial greenspace

2017

E3

Visits to the outdoors[7]

2012

2015

Increased + Progress on track

E4

Involvement in biodiversity conservation

2010

2015

Stable + Requires remedial action

E5

Membership of biodiversity NGOs[8]

2013

2015

Increased + Progress on track

Attitudes to biodiversity

On average almost 70% of adults living in Scotland expressed some interest or concern about biodiversity and feel it has some personal relevance to them. These proportions have shown some variation over time, but some of the lowest levels of engagement have been recorded in the most recent research, particularly since 2012. Perhaps critically, only about 25% of the population feel biodiversity is very relevant to their lives.

Greenspace

The original indicator developed in 2007 has been archived following publication of Scotland's Greenspace Map. A new spatial indicator is currently under development by Ordnance Survey, with the first results expected in 2017. The indicator will allow quantitative changes in accessible greenspace provision within a 5 minute walk of where people live, to be monitored across urban Scotland. In 2015, data from the Scottish Household Survey used from the Active Scotland Outcomes Framework indicates that 68% of adults considered that they have accessible greenspace within a 5 minute walk of their home, an increase of 11% increase since 2011.

Visits to the outdoors

In previous Reports to the Scottish Parliament, data has been used which measures the percentage of adults visiting the outdoors at least once in the last 12 months. The data now presented identifies those adults in Scotland that visit the outdoors at least once per week. During 2015, an estimated 49% of adults in Scotland visited the outdoors at least once per week. Around 32% visited less than once a week and 18% didn't visit the outdoors at all. While this is a significant and positive trend, the data suggests that more effort is still needed to increase use of the outdoors by people from disadvantaged communities and equality groups.

Involvement in biodiversity conservation

The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) includes a question on volunteering, the results show that the proportion of adults in Scotland doing any sort of volunteering has remained stable over the last few years (27% in 2014), as has the proportion of adults involved in environmental volunteering. In 2014, 6% of all volunteers said they'd done some environmental volunteering in the previous year.

Membership of biodiversity NGOs

In 2013 an additional question was added to the Scottish Nature Omnibus survey, which asked respondents if they were a member of any organisation which helps look after wildlife or the natural environment. There has been an increase of 3% from 10% of respondents in 2013 to 13% in 2015. Previously membership data was collected from a number of environmental NGOs.

2.4 Wildlife, habitats and protected places

Outcome: 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.

Key steps

1. Ensure that management of protected places for nature also provides wider public benefits.

2. Align habitat restoration in protected areas with national goals for improving ecosystem health, with local priorities determined at the catchment or landscape scales.

3. Integrate protected areas policy with action for wider habitats to combat fragmentation and restore key habitats.

4. Develop a wildlife management framework to address the key priorities for sustainable species management, conservation and conflict issues, including reintroductions and invasive non-native species.

5. Involve more people that at present in this work and improve our understanding of the poorly known elements of nature.

Activity to support wildlife has been focused on protected areas and those species requiring specific action. The significant activity on tackling invasive species and wildlife crime detailed in the Route Map is also relevant here, as are the landscape-scale projects described Section 2.1.

Partnership and collaboration have been at the heart of all of this work ensuring we maximise the skills and resources across many organisations. Mechanisms such as the SRDP (described further in Section 2.4) and other funding from EU Life, HLF, SNH, Scottish Government, SEPA and many charitable trusts as well as contributions by members of conservation organisations have enabled much to be achieved.

However there are still challenges for some species in Scotland most notably breeding seabirds, upland waders and specialist butterflies. Understanding the reasons for species change is important if downwards trends are to be reversed.

Assessing progress towards this outcome

The relevant indicators developed for reporting on the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy; 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity are presented in Table 4. All these indicators have been updated during this reporting period on the Strategy, with the exception of S6 - vascular plant diversity - and S12 - otters.

Table 4 Indicator summaries relevant to monitoring progress on Outcome 4 - Wildlife, habitat and protected areas

No.

Indicator

Start

Updated

Trend

S3

Abundance of terrestrial breeding birds

1994

2015

Increased + Progress on track

S4

Wintering waterbirds

1975

2014

Decreased + Requires urgent remedial action

S5

Breeding seabirds

1986

2015

Decreased + Requires urgent remedial action

S6

Vascular Plant diversity

1998

2015

2007

Archived

National Plant Monitoring Scheme

S8

Terrestrial insect abundance - specialist butterflies

1979

2014

Decreased + Requires urgent remedial action

Terrestrial insect abundance - generalist butterflies

Stable + Progress on track

S10

Notified species in favourable condition

1999

2016

Increased + Progress on track

S11

Notified habitats in favourable condition[9]

1999

2016

Increased + Progress on track

S12

Otter - trend data[10]

1977

2012

Archived

Abundance of breeding birds

Scotland's terrestrial breeding birds include those commonly associated with woodland, farmland and upland habitats. Some are closely associated with one habitat type while others utilise more than one. Of the 66 bird species surveyed 40 increased in abundance and 25 declined. Between 2014 and 2015 there was a 7% increase in farmland birds but no significant change in woodland or upland bird species. The trend since 1994 show a more complicated picture as follows.

  • Woodland birds increased significantly by 68%;
  • Farmland birds increased steadily up to the late-2000s, subsequently fluctuating between 13% and 23% above the 1994 index value. Between 1994 and 2012, overall numbers had increased by 22%;
  • Upland birds decreased significantly by 14% overall.

Wintering waterbirds

Overall waterbird numbers peaked in 1997/98 since when there has been a gradual decline. As of 2010/11 the indicator stood at 93% of that recoded in 1975. Key trends are as follows:

  • Goose numbers more than trebled, to peak at 340% in 2009/10 from which there has been a slight drop since 2010/11 to 300%.
  • Duck and swan numbers have been relatively stable, ranging from 98% in 2009/10 and 105% in 2011/12.
  • Wader numbers have been declining since 1996/97 and stood at 57% in 2011/12, the lowest value on record.

Breeding seabirds

Internationally important numbers of breeding seabirds are found in Scotland, many of which breed in large colonies. Since 1986 when the UK Seabird Monitoring Programme was established there has been a marked decline in both seabird abundance and productivity. Only two species have remained stable; Black guillemot and Common gull, others such as the Arctic tern (72%) and Blacklegged kittiwake (68%) have declined considerably since 1986. The key factors affecting seabirds are food availability, weather conditions and impact of predators. The impact of climate change through warming of the sea is thought to be a contributing factor in diminishing stocks of sand eels, the main food for source for many seabirds.

Vascular Plants

The diversity of plant species across different habitats has declined by 10% between 1998 and 2007 as shown in the Countryside Survey data. This overall loss was reflected in butterfly numbers over the same period as they rely on many plant species such as wild thyme as a food source. Competitive species such as nettle increased significantly. The National Plant Monitoring Scheme now replaces the vascular plant indicator. Volunteers began collecting data in 2015 which will provide a baseline dataset following completion of an initial three year period.

The principal drivers of plant diversity loss have been land use change, and to a lesser extent atmospheric pollution. The potential impact of plant diseases, such as sudden oak death, Phytophthora ramorum, on our native flora is of increasing concern. Plants underpin wild species diversity on land because they form the base of the food chain and provide the diversity of habitats that species need to survive.

Terrestrial insects - butterflies

Butterfly populations can show large natural fluctuations. These are mainly due to environmental factors, especially weather conditions. Long-term changes in abundance and distribution have been linked to habitat loss and fragmentation, land use change, and climate change.

Some generalist butterflies may be benefitting from climate change, expanding their range northwards into southern Scotland; these include Small skipper and Essex skipper. Three generalist butterflies show climate-driven, significant long-term population increases - Peacock, Speckled wood and Orange-tip. Regular migrant butterflies, including the Red admiral are also increasing in abundance in the long-term as a response to recent warming.

Scotland's specialist butterflies have declined by 67% since 1979. Three specialist butterfly species declined significantly - Small pearl bordered fritillary; Large heath and Grayling. Habitat loss, climate change and increased nitrogen deposition are all linked to the declines.

  • Generalist species long-term trends were classed as stable.
  • Specialist butterflies have shown a significant and progressive decline of 67% from 1979-2014.

Site condition monitoring

Site Condition Monitoring is SNH's programme for monitoring the condition of nature conservation features of special interest on designated sites in Scotland. These features of special interest are known as 'natural features' and may be habitats (e.g. woodland, marine reef, freshwater loch), species populations (e.g. otter, dotterel, marsh fritillary butterfly) or geological formations (e.g. cave, fossil bed, volcanic exposures).

The purpose of Site Condition Monitoring is to determine the condition of the designated natural feature within a site. This is to establish whether the natural feature is likely to maintain itself in the medium to longer term under the current management regime and wider environmental or other influences. There are in excess of 5000 individual natural features of special interest hosted on designated sites which are monitored on a rolling programme through Site Condition Monitoring. In March 2016 the proportion of natural features in favourable or recovering condition was 80.4%. In order to provide further information the details of notified species and notified habitats in favourable condition are described below.

Notified species in favourable condition

In 2016, the condition of more than 200 of Scotland's most important species and groups of species protected within our suite of 1,866 protected areas (Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Ramsar, Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation) was measured. These areas are designated for one or more notified species, habitat or geological features, and enable Scotland to safeguard its most important wildlife, from otters to butterflies to lichens.

In total 71% of all species features were in favourable condition; 3% were unfavourable recovering; 3% were unfavourable with corrective measures agreed; and 24% were in an unfavourable condition (values do not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding).

The percentage of species features that were favourable or unfavourable recovering were:

  • 88% of terrestrial mammals;
  • 72% of birds;
  • 76% of fish;
  • 57% of marine mammals;
  • 50% of amphibians and reptiles;
  • 100% dragonflies;
  • 87% of butterflies;
  • 82% of other invertebrates;
  • 82% of vascular plants;
  • 65% of non-vascular plants.

From 2015 to 2016 there has been a slight increase from 73.3% to 73.8% of protected species (qualifying features) in favourable and unfavourable recovering condition.

Notified habitats in favourable condition

Protected areas represent the very best of Scotland's habitats and of the underlying geology. Their protection and management helps to ensure they remain in good condition for everyone to enjoy, both now and future generations. In Scotland there is a suite of around 1,866 protected areas covering nearly two million hectares.

In 2016, 63% of all habitat features on protected areas were in favourable condition, 9% were in unfavourable recovering condition, 11% of features were unfavourable with corrective measures agreed and 17% were unfavourable and without practical on-site steps available for recovery.

The percentage of habitat features in favourable and unfavourable recovering condition as of May 2016, are shown below:

  • 98% of marine
  • 82% of coastal
  • 95% of geological features
  • 73% of freshwater
  • 70% of wetlands
  • 74% of upland
  • 53% of woodland
  • 56% of heath
  • 50% of grassland

2.5 Land and freshwater management

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

Key steps

1. Promote an ecosystem approach to land management that fosters sustainable use of natural resources and puts biodiversity at the heart of land-use planning and decision making.

2. Ensure that measures taken forward under CAP encourage land managers to develop and retain the diversity of wildlife habitats and landscape features.

3. Support "High Nature Value" farming and forestry.

4. Put in place the management necessary to bring Scotland's protected areas into favourable condition and improve the ecological status of water bodies.

5. Ensure that biodiversity and ecosystem objectives are fully integrated into flood risk management plans and restore wetland habitats and woodlands to provide sustainable flood management.

6. Restore and extend natural habitats as means of building reserves of carbon and to help mitigate climate change.

7. Provide clear advice to land and water managers on best practice.

The Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021 was published in March 2016 and builds on the successful regional land use pilots led by local authorities in the Scottish Borders and Aberdeenshire. The adoption of an ecosystem approach is one of the cornerstones of the Strategy.

The SRDP 2014 - 2020 was formally approved by the European Commission on 26 May 2015. Implementation is underway with the 3rd round of the £350m Agricultural Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) open for applications.

CAP greening measures, including an Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) requirement designed to benefit biodiversity, have been successfully implemented from 2015 and approval was secured from the European Commission to implement an additional "nutrient management plan" requirement for grasslands farms from 2016. Increased protection for hedgerows and watercourses has also been introduced under cross compliance from 2015. It is still too early to evaluate uptake and impact of these measures which are relevant to the wider countryside.

The first batch of AECS contracts was successfully delivered during this period, providing targeted support for sustainable land management. Following the first round of applications for AECS in 2015, which attracted significant interest (more than 900 applications), contracts were offered in early 2016 to around 570 successful applicants with a total committed value of approximately £41.8m. The second batch of AECS contracts, worth approximately £62.1m, will be issued shortly.

The SRDP Farm Advisory Service is now in place, providing environmental and business advice to farmers and land managers through a £6.5m 'one to one' service (including flow-through grants) awarded to Ricardo Energy and Environment and a £13.5m 'one to many' service awarded to SAC Commercial Ltd.

The design of the £10m Environmental Cooperative Action Fund (ECAF) is currently being adjusted in order to ensure audit compliance and the scheme will be re-launched in 2017. This will support the costs of facilitating co-operation between farmers, foresters and other land managers in order to undertake landscape-scale environmental projects.

A programme of research and demonstration activities has being undertaken at the existing research farms of James Hutton Institute (JHI) and Scottish Rural College (SRUC). Work is ongoing looking at ecosystem services at Kirkton and Auchtertyre Farms, and biodiversity monitoring activities are being undertaken at JHI farms co-ordinated by the Centre for Sustainable Cropping. A successful LEAF demonstration event held at Balruddery Research Farm in June 2016 jointly organised by JHI and SRUC.

In the water environment, the regulatory framework is facilitating environmental improvements for a number of sectors, although certain toxic substances from diffuse sources need to be addressed. Diffuse pollution and the physical condition of water bodies remain as key management challenges and is reflected in the second cycle of river basin management plans. Partnership working at a catchment-scale to address these pressures will be a key factor in meeting these targets and also realising the potential benefits for biodiversity.

Assessing progress towards this outcome

A number of indicators relevant to this outcome have been previously described in Section 2-4 and these are not repeated here.

The Breeding Farmland Birds trend note provides some further information focusing on species that are found predominantly on farmed land, though this has not been updated since 2013. Up to this point, seed eating birds show stable or increasing long-term trends but four out of five wader species show significant declines. Species, such as the corn bunting, have benefited from targeted management under SRDP. The decline in farmland waders, such as the lapwing and curlew, is an on-going concern. Several studies have looked at ways to improve breeding success for waders but, so far, not at a sufficiently large scale to affect national trends.

Additional indicators that help describe the farmed environment and the changes that have occurred are presented in Table 5, though only one has been updated during this reporting period for the Strategy.

Table 5. Indicators relevant to monitoring progress in Outcome 5 - Land and Freshwater.

No.

Indicator

Start

Updated

Trend

River water quality indicator[11]

1992

2015

Increased + Progress on track

N7

Land & sea of natural heritage importance

2008

2013

River Quality

The standards for measuring water quality were modified in 2013 and the impacts of this are described in the river water quality indicator. The proportion of river length classed as unpolluted rose from 83.3% in 2013 to 84% in 2015.

Land managed for nature

By 2012, the total area of land under some form of positive management[12] was 5,180,600ha (66% of the total land used for agriculture). The increase in the area of land was predominantly due to a larger area of Scotland being managed under the SRDP rather than the growth in the area of protected sites (including Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Natura sites and NNRs. It is expected that is figure will increased as result of the marine protection areas designation programme.

2.6 Marine and Coastal

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

Key steps

1. Adopt a Scottish Marine Plan and develop regional marine plans to aid balanced decision-making in the marine environment.

2. Establish a coherent network of Marine Protected Areas, promoting sustainable use and conservation.

3. Collate information on the location and sensitivity of priority marine features and make this information available to support their protection.

4. Achieve good environmental status for Scottish Seas.

5. Bring Common Fisheries Policy fish stocks to levels consistent with the maximum sustainable yield wherever possible, and take account of biodiversity in managing inshore fisheries.

6. Implement a rapid response framework to prevent colonisation of new invasive species in Scotland's seas and islands.

7. Improve the monitoring of the marine environment to identify changes and guide progress towards the above outcomes.

8. Improve understanding of how coastal ecosystems are likely to adapt to climate change and develop appropriate strategies for coastal zone management.

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 provides the legislative framework for the effective delivery of this Scottish Biodiversity Strategy outcome. Its main measures include:

  • Marine planning: a new statutory marine planning system to sustainably manage the increasing, and often conflicting, demands on our seas;
  • Marine licensing: a simpler licensing system, minimising the number of licences required for development in the marine environment to cut bureaucracy and encourage economic investment;
  • Marine conservation: improved marine nature and historic conservation with new powers to protect and manage areas of importance for marine wildlife, habitats and historic monuments;
  • Seal conservation: improved protection for seals and a new comprehensive licence system to ensure appropriate management when necessary;
  • Enforcement: a range of enhanced powers of marine conservation and licensing.

The legislation also introduces a specific duty to protect and enhance the marine environment and includes measures to help boost economic investment and growth in areas such as marine renewables.

Recent steps in the implementation of this legislation have been significant, including the publication of the Scottish Marine Plan in 2015. Work has also now commenced on regional marine plans in Shetland and the Clyde, with the first phase of preparing regional assessments likely to be completed in 2017.

Considerable progress has been made with consultation and designation of Marine Protected Areas. Approximately 16% of Scotland's marine area (including inshore & offshore waters) is now protected for nature. This includes SSSI & Natura sites plus a suite of 30 Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (NCMPAs) covering 10% of the seas around Scotland. These sites form a network of marine protected areas, safe-guarding much of Scotland's marine biodiversity. Further Natura sites (Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas) and NCMPAs are also being considered that will improve the protection of our seas. A monitoring and assessment group has been established by Marine Scotland to develop and implement a strategy to support and demonstrate the effectiveness of the Marine Protected Areas network for biodiversity and other outcomes.

An Inshore Fisheries Strategy has also been produced with the aim of improving the evidence base for management, streamlining governance and increasing stakeholder engagement and embedding inshore fisheries management into wider marine planning. Five inshore fisheries groups are in place and regulations on the management of fishing within Marine Protected Areas developed.

The National Coastal Change Assessment project is nearing completion. This has reviewed historic and future changes to Scotland's coasts and identified the extent and vulnerability of erodible coast. Its conclusions will inform policy and practice on managing the coast and addressing flood risk by agencies and local authorities.

Assessing progress towards this outcome

Relevant indicators used for measuring progress against the marine and coastal outcome are shown in table 7 below. However, only S5 - breeding sea birds - has been updated during this reporting period for the Strategy and commentary on this topic has been provided in Section 2.4. An extensive set of new indicators was developed in 2012 to report on UK progress towards achieving Good Ecological Status (at broad regional sea scale) under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. A sub-set of these indicators is currently being used to inform the assessment of the status of UK seas, covering aspects like seal abundance and distribution, zooplankton biomass and rate of introduction of non-native species. It should be possible to use some of these indicators for SBS monitoring purposes, although the scales of assessment are different.

Table 7. Biodiversity indicators summaries relevant to Outcome 6.

No.

Indicator

Start

Updated

Trend

S5

Breeding seabirds

1986

2015

Decreased + Requires urgent remedial action

S14

Marine plankton

1958

2010

Superseded by MSFD indicators[13]

S15

Estuarine fish

1977

2005

Archived

S16

Commercially exploited fish stocks

1998

2007

Archived

S17

Non Native species

1950

2001

Archived

2.7 Measuring progress

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

Key steps

  • Put in place a programme of work to measure progress towards the 2020 outcomes, so that we can track progress and deal with problems.
  • Work more closely with the growing number of volunteers to develop our understanding of the changing state of nature.
  • Develop and support the Scottish Biodiversity Information Forum to bolster the collection and wider use of biodiversity data in Scotland.
  • Publish a terrestrial habitat map for Scotland.

Much of this data is held by the National Biodiversity Network Gateway (NBN) which in Scotland is displayed through the NBN Atlas Scotland Transferring content from the NBN Gateway to the Atlas platform is approaching 4 million records Scotland. The NBN is now developing a UK Atlas from the Scotland model, and negotiating open licence terms to enable as much as possible of the Gateway content to be made accessible through Atlas. In the meantime, Scotland's Biodiversity Information Forum is undertaking a business analysis of the biological recording infrastructure in Scotland. This includes establishing a register of all operational recording schemes and their operators so that data flows in Scotland are well-understood and agreed.

The 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity also identified the need for additional spatial indicators of ecosystem health that operate at a national and regional level. A suite of 15 ecosystem health indicators were identified for this purpose by the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy Science and Technical Group. Some of these indicators, including protected nature sites are available on Scotland's Environment web. Live data can be analysed spatially helping us understand how species on protected nature sites are doing across Scotland. Work is underway to ensure the full suite of ecosystem health indicators is available through this interactive platform by September 2017.

A new habitat map of Scotland based on the Pan-European classification is under preparation by SNH and is expected to be finalised by 2019. A new EUNIS Land Cover of Scotland map was published in 2015, the first of its kind in the UK to adopt internationally recognised data and classification standards. It is a generalised map of habitats such as woodland or mires, bogs and fens, for all of Scotland. Around two-thirds of Scotland has now also been mapped to high resolution, with new outputs such as soft coast habitats being published as open data through the SNH web site. Most of the mapping to date has been accomplished through the re-use of existing data, held by SNH and a wide range of contributors in the public, private and voluntary sectors across Scotland. Mapping in the uplands is more challenging, for which new techniques are being developed.


Contact

Email: biodiversity@gov.scot