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Status and Trends of Biodiversity


The results of the most recent reporting round of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species and Habitats, undertaken in 2005, were published in June 2006. The UK BAP contains plans for 391 Priority Species, 10 Priority Species-Groups and 45 Habitats.

Overall, the changes in the status of the Priority Species since the last reporting round in 2002 are positive. Of the 189 species for which assessments were made in 2002 and 2005 (excluding species with unknown or no clear trends), the number assessed as ‘increasing or probably increasing’ in range or number rose from 25 to 33 (13 to 27%) whilst the number ‘declining, probably declining or lost’ fell from 95 to 81 (50 to 43%).

Of the 16 habitats for which assessments were made in both years, the number increasing in area rose from 6 to 7 (38 to 44%) whilst the number declining remained stable at 8 (50%).

The 2005 reporting results show that, of the 33 habitats and 289 species with known status in 2005: (1) 10 habitats (30%) and 43 species (15%) are thought to be increasing; (2) although 14 habitats (42%) are assessed as declining, this decline is slowing for 11 (33%) habitats; (3) 112 species (39%) are thought to be declining or lost, but the decline is slowing for 37 (12%) species; (4) one species (starry-breck lichen), has been lost since BAP publication; and (5) the UK trend was unknown for 12 habitats and 47 species.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are England’s most important areas for wildlife and geology. There are currently 4113 SSSIs in England, covering over 7% of the total land area. The Government has a target to get 95% of SSSI areas in England into favourable or recovering condition (Target Condition) by 2010. Good progress has been made, with over 74% of SSSIs currently in Target Condition.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

The UK has established 7,191 protected areas that account for 10.9% of its total land area, 192 of which are marine protected areas. The UK also has 169 wetland sites and 9 Biosphere Reserves.

Percentage of Forest Cover

Forests in the UK cover 2,845,000 ha and other wooded land 20,000 ha.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

Each country now contributes to delivery on biodiversity issues through the implementation of their own strategies. Implementation of these strategies will be aided in England, Wales and Scotland through legislation placing a duty on all public bodies to “have regard” in England and Wales, and to “further” in Scotland, for the conservation of biodiversity when carrying out their duties (Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act in England and Wales; Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act in Scotland). Northern Ireland proposes to introduce a similar statutory biodiversity duty as part of its review of the Wildlife Order (NI) 1985.

Under the UKBAP, species-focused, well-targeted habitat restoration has delivered notable successes. However, many of our current challenges, such as the continuing and accelerating decline in coastal habitats, arise from cumulative pressures and cut-across convenient compartmentalised areas of environmental policy.

In line with the thinking behind the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment approach, we are now looking to consider ecosystems as a whole and how the different components function and depend on one another, especially as these relationships respond to climatic and other environmental changes. With this in mind, the future emphasis in the UK will increasingly be on Habitat Action Plans (HAPs), while recognising the need to ensure that habitat based working delivers the needs of species. For the most part, species objectives are expected to be integrated within HAPs but in some circumstances separate Species Action Plans will continue to be the best focus for action.

We are also working to develop a more integrated approach to conservation, management and enhancement of the natural environment more broadly that is consistent with the principles of the Ecosystem Approach. This focuses on the design of policies which deliver healthy, functioning ecosystems and ways to reflect the true value of ecosystem services in decision-making.

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) was published in 1994 as part of the UK response to the Convention on Biological Diversity signed at Rio in 1992. The UK BAP helps coordinate and drive conservation work at national and local levels through identifying priorities for action and setting biological targets for the recovery of species and habitats.

Following review by Lead Partners and Steering Groups, revised targets for the Species and Habitat action plans were published on the UKBAP website on 30th November 2006. For the first time, these targets have been disaggregated to a country level, reflecting that delivery for biodiversity is now a devolved matter.

A set of 18 headline UK biodiversity indicators has been developed to support reporting on progress towards 2010 targets. These are due to be published in June 2007.

Global Strategy for Plant Conservation: The UK published Plant Diversity Challenge, a direct response to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), in 2004. This sets out a framework for the UK to achieve all of the targets included within the GSPC by 2010. Progress in implementation was assessed during 2006, and despite some challenging targets, excellent progress has been made in understanding and documenting plant diversity and in ex situ conservation measures.

Implementation is overseen by a partnership between the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Plantlife International and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. In 2006, a website was launched by the partnership (http://www.plantlife.org.uk/plant-diversity-challenge/pdc-index.html) and, in July 2007, a report will be published describing the progress that has been achieved and the gaps and challenges remaining.

Global Taxonomy Initiative: The UK has established a GTI National Focal Point and a web site (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/biodiversity-museum/global-taxonomic-initiative/index.html). A database of taxonomists working in the UK has also been compiled.

A taxonomic needs assessment was undertaken in 2004 to identify the taxonomic information and resources required for biodiversity conservation in the UK, including the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. It is anticipated the results of the assessment will inform future policy and priorities of both taxonomic organisations in the UK and the wider biodiversity conservation community, as well as help to identify gaps in knowledge. Additionally, the methodology developed for the UK TNA has been employed in two further TNAs funded by the UK: one on Invasive Alien Species worldwide and one for Ghana, being carried out with Ghanaian partners.

The UK is assisting in the development of globally-used standards for exchange of taxonomic information. By making specimen and observational data available through both European and global initiatives, particularly BioCase and GBIF, and names of species through initiatives such as IPNI, ILDIS, Index Fungorum, Species 2000 and GBIF, UK institutions have contributed around 80,000 names and over 15 million specimen and observational records to GBIF. The UK is also active in other initiatives, including the SYNTHESYS programme, which has allowed researchers across Europe to visit and work in taxonomic institutions across the continent; EDIT – the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy – to make taxonomic information much more accessible on the web; and CATE to develop protocols for web-based taxonomy, with examples in plants and insects.

The UK Darwin Initiative has to date supported many projects with taxonomy as the main focus, and through these has contributed to key areas of all Operational Objectives of the GTI Programme of Work.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are nationally protected areas designated to conserve and protect the best wildlife, geological and physiographical heritage in Great Britain. The SSSI network in Great Britain and its counterpart in Northern Ireland provide a comprehensive coverage of nationally important habitats and species sites in the UK. SSSIs cover around 7% of England, 10% of Wales, 12.8% of Scotland and 6.5% of Northern Ireland. This network largely underpins the 556 Special Areas of Conservation sites that have been formally designated by the UK under the EC Habitats Directive, and the 52 Special Areas of Conservation that have been designated in Northern Ireland. In addition, two sites in Gibraltar, which are candidate SACs, are awaiting formal adoption by the European Community. 242 Special Protection Areas for birds have also been classified, and a further 12 are being considered for classification. In addition to this terrestrial site-based mechanism, over 133 internationally important sites containing a marine element have been designated. The UK is in the process of preparing legislation that will permit the designation of sites under the European Wild Birds and Habitats Directives outside territorial waters. The UK is committed to establishing an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas within its waters by 2010. In addition to domestic measures, the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies have established 2 natural World Heritage Sites and 18 Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. A major review of potential Ramsar sites has been completed, which could lead to a considerable expansion of this series over coming years.

Initiatives in Access and Benefit Sharing

The UK has established a web based National Focal Point at http://www.defra.gov.uk/science/geneticresources/default.asp. This provides information on access to genetic resources in the UK and lists the main relevant contacts to obtain PIC and negotiate MATs. The UK completed in early 2005 a review of the implementation of ABS arrangements by UK stakeholders. In the light of this, measures to raise awareness and engage stakeholders are being considered. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew conducts fieldwork under written agreements (permits/memoranda of understanding/Access and Benefit-Sharing Agreements) according to existing national legal frameworks, setting out prior informed consent and mutually agreed terms for project activities and use of material.

The UK strongly encourages the use of the voluntary Bonn Guidelines by its stakeholders, particularly in the web-based Focal Point referred above. They are regularly discussed with and brought to the attention of stakeholders. A number of major institutions have developed best practice documents relating to ABS, consistent with the Bonn Guidelines. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh and Fuchsia Research International Botanic Garden have endorsed the Principles on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-Sharing, developed by 28 botanic gardens and herbaria from 21 countries worldwide in a project managed by Kew and funded by the Department for International Development. These are voluntary principles consistent with the Bonn Guidelines which institutions are invited to use as a basis for individual institutional policies that reflect the letter and spirit of the CBD.

The UK strongly supports the European Community initiative to WIPO which proposes to make disclosure of origin/source a formal condition of patentability. A number of projects under the UK Darwin Initiative (primarily a capacity-building instrument) inter alia support aspects of ABS in developing countries. Kew runs training modules on ABS practical implementation for UK and international courses and workshops. Kew is also co-producing a manual on DNA banking within the context of the CBD’s ABS provisions, targeted at academic researchers and technicians, as an output of the Darwin-funded South African DNA bank project. The UK has also ratified the FAO International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and, following the negotiation of the standard Material Transfer Agreement in June 2006, is currently ensuring the practical implementation of the Treaty by appropriate stakeholders.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

There are no UK communities who consider themselves indigenous, traditional or local within the definition implied under implementation of the CBD. Nevertheless, the UK is concerned that many indigenous people do not enjoy their full human rights, and is committed to helping improve this situation. The UK Department for International Development’s work in support of indigenous people includes support to the Inter-American Development Bank's Indigenous Strategy and funding of programmes in Latin America that target indigenous groups. Through the Darwin Initiative, the UK has supported many projects in countries rich in biodiversity but less rich in resources. For example, the University of Strathclyde is working with indigenous communities to investigate and promote methods of sustainable management of riverine plantations on periodically flooded banks of the Ranier Amazonas and its tributaries in Colombia, Brazil and Peru.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme