Biodiversity duty report 2018 to 2020

Report detailing how the Scottish Government furthered the conservation of biodiversity when exercising its functions, during the period 2018 to 2020 inclusive.

3. Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services

3.1 Mainstreaming Biodiversity

To support mainstreaming biodiversity, Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) is committed to developing and funding a new Centre of Expertise on Biodiversity. We committed to this as a part of the draft research strategy for 2022-7 Draft Strategy for Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Research 2022-2027 - Scottish Government - Citizen Space ( The Biodiversity Centre of Expertise will supply research advice to Scottish Government, agencies and public bodies, which will work on a wide range of policy issues to mainstream biodiversity evidence into public policy and practice.

3.2 Nature-Based Solutions, Climate Change And Biodiversity

Looking ahead, what do you think will be the main climate change related challenges for biodiversity over the next three years?

Our primary biodiversity related challenge will be setting up and commissioning the Biodiversity Centre of Expertise, as outlined in our research strategy.

3.3 Public Engagement And Workforce Development

This is not a function we deal with directly in RESAS. However as a part of the COVID-19 response RESAS funded institutes put together home-schooling information for teachers. This includes a range of resources at primary and secondary education level designed to help children understand the challenges of biodiversity: SEFARI%20Online%20Education%20Resources%20Table_August%202020.pdf">SEFARI Online Education Resources Table - August 2020.

3.4 Research And Monitoring

Describe any research activities that your organisation has undertaken to help develop understanding and awareness of biodiversity

The Scottish Government invests in science, including biodiversity research through the Environment, Rural Affairs and Food Strategic Research Programme 2016-21. This broad portfolio includes research on Scotland's natural assets (soils, water and biodiversity). A key objective is to better understand the processes that underpin the functioning and resilience of our natural assets, in particular biodiversity. The research should provide new approaches to deliver sustainable land management, and new metrics for monitoring the health of ecosystems and the services they provide.

The research conducted was relevant to a broad range of stakeholders, as it aimed to provide information on how biodiversity helped to regulate ecosystem functions, how environmental management impacted on biodiversity and ecosystem functions, and how management actions could be targeted to achieve outcomes – including the delivery of ecosystem services.

The work addressed the challenge of protecting and restoring our natural capital. Specifically the research intended to:

  • Deliver an improved understanding of the linkages between biodiversity and ecosystem function.
  • Provide an improved capacity for targeted environmental management through the development of Ecosystem Health metrics, including understanding how the connectivity of ecosystems might affect ecosystem function.
  • Improve the understanding of the impacts of management interventions (including restoration) on Ecosystem Service flows, and of associated trajectories of change.
  • Investigate components of resilience that might help predict the consequences of environmental and climate change on species, habitats and ecosystem health, and to manage them such that their resilience is enhanced.
  • Help Scotland meet biodiversity goals as set by the Aichi Targets, EU Biodiversity Strategy and Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, by considering management measures and potential options for safeguarding against biodiversity loss.

Three particular examples of projects conducted through the research programme are:

  • Development of WaderMap: an online web app that enables stakeholders to interact with a map of management-relevant information and wader conservation initiatives and contribute data on their own wader conservation initiatives.
  • Research into how residents and visitors use and place value on woodlands with a high conservation value, which gave insights about perceptions of both biodiversity and woodland management initiatives that focus on improving biodiversity.
  • Analysis of citizen science data to document a five-decade decline in species that are associated with Scotland's ancient woodlands and identify solutions to reverse the trend.

The Scottish Government monitors trends in biodiversity as one of the 81 National Indicators in the National Performance Framework. RESAS is responsible for updating this indicator. To date we have monitored biodiversity performance using the Index of abundance of Terrestrial Breeding Birds. In recognition of the limitations of this existing indicator, we commissioned a study to develop a replacement high-level indicator to measure and report trends in both terrestrial and marine biodiversity in Scotland. The new indicator will measure trends of either abundance or occupancy across more than 2000 species and provide a much better assessment of biodiversity in Scotland. This new indicator will be used from Spring 2021.

In the last year RESAS hosted a PhD student intern to complete a project for the Scottish Government biodiversity policy team analysing public bodies' biodiversity duty reporting submissions from 2018. The project has helped demonstrate the scope of biodiversity actions being undertaken in Scotland

3.5 Biodiversity Highlights And Challenges

Describe your organisation's main achievements for biodiversity over the reporting period and what you are most proud of (this can include processes, plans, projects, partnerships, events and actions).

We have developed a research strategy which will fund a Biodiversity Centre of Expertise as a part of our next programme.

We also arranged the sale of one of our research farms, which was no longer in use, at Hartwood, near Shotts, to Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS). This land included a derelict open-cast coal mine. Both the ex-research farmland and the coal mine will be used by FLS to develop new woodlands which will transform a derelict site to one of great biodiversity and public amenity. Additionally as this location is in Central Scotland, it will be available to a wide local population for benefit and enjoyment of nature.

Looking ahead, what do you think will be the main challenges over the next three years?

There will be continued resource pressures on the RESAS research budget, and we will work to mitigate that where possible.



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