Thursday, 24 October 2013

Biodiversity indicators and the Biological Records Centre

The 2013 update to the UK Biodiversity Indicators has just been published on the JNCC website.
CEH scientists working within the Biological Records Centre contribute to several of the indicators, building on our wealth of knowledge and links to most of the UK's wildlife recording schemes. In particular, for 2013, our scientists have contributed to development of the new index on the status of priority species (C4a).

Dr Nick Isaac of CEH explains more:

"The new indicator C4a uses data from national surveys, such as the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The index provides an annual summary of the abundance of 210 mammal, bird, butterfly and moth species, all of which have been identified as priorities for the four national conservation agencies. This property makes this index much more sensitive than the old C4, in which species were categorised as declining, stable or increasing based on expert opinion."

"In addition, we also produced a supplementary index based on distribution data. These 'biological records' are not collected in a standardised way, which makes the data extremely noisy and liable to produce biased estimates of species trends. Within the Biological Records Centre, we've invested heavily in trying to understand this bias, and to extract a meaningful signal of change from the noise in the data. This investment has now paid off, because we're now able to report on the status of  taxonomic groups, such as bees, that lack standardised monitoring schemes."

"Both the abundance and distribution-based indicators show a decline of 50-60% since 1970, reinforcing the message that conservation agencies have their work cut out to prevent more species from going extinct."

More details of the C4a indicator can be found in the technical report, "Status of threatened species - status of priority species".

Other UK biodiversity indicators with CEH involvement include:

  • C6. Insects of the wider countryside (butterflies) population (data from CEH's joint stewardship of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme with Butterfly Conservation)
  • C2. Habitat Connectivity (Countryside Survey data)
  • B6. Pressure from Invasive species (reflecting our work with the National Biodiversity Network)
  • B5. Pressure from Pollution
  • C7. Plants of the wider countryside (data from CEH's Countryside Survey)

CEH science also played a key role in the 2011 National Ecosystem Assessment, which is the basis of Indicator D2. Biodiversity and ecosystem services (terrestrial).

Additional information

Biological Records Centre

Staff page of Dr Nick Isaac, CEH

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