The UK Terrestrial Biodiversity Surveillance StrategyOne of the new BAP priority habitats, traditional orchards, is for the first time recognised. This habitat is particularly important for invertebrates and lichens © Will Watson/


There are currently over 100 different schemes run by many different organisations operating at a country or UK scale, which look at one or more components of biodiversity. These schemes provide evidence of the status of biodiversity in relation to specific pressures and drivers including climate change, habitat transformation and exploitation. They also show if conservation strategies are being successful and indicate areas that need further conservation action.


In 2009, JNCC developed a surveillance strategy and framework to identify how to most effectively prioritise and use evidence from surveillance schemes, and to encourage improved efficiency in planning new sampling and analyses. This strategy helps to ensure that resources are deployed in a way that maximises the benefit to biodiversity, whilst addressing three surveillance objectives, applicable across all countries of the UK:


Objective 1

To measure status and trends of a framework of habitats, species, and their ecosystem functions. This is in order to identify problems, measure the effectiveness of interventions, and enable priorities to be established for future action.

Objective 2

To detect the impacts of pressures affecting biodiversity. This is in order to provide evidence to support policies or actions to mitigate the pressures or influence their drivers.

Objective 3

To assess the status of species and habitats covered by legislation and policy. This is in order to ensure that the reporting obligations of legislation and international commitments can be met.


The strategy aims to promote a complete framework for flexible and standardised biodiversity surveillance at a range of scales. Often one surveillance scheme can meet multiple surveillance requirements: providing information about specific species and habitats of conservation concern to enable us to protect them and meet our legislative reporting requirements, while also giving a broad picture of the pressures on biodiversity. JNCC’s role in provision of surveillance and monitoring evidence was refreshed and reviewed in 2013.


Ultimate decisions over funding and control of biodiversity surveillance lies with country conservation bodies; governments, for example via Rural Development Programme (RDP) monitoring; the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); and a range of non-government organisations (NGOs). JNCC has an important role in coordinating and directing surveillance decisions across the UK countries and environmental organisations, providing advice for stakeholders by applying the principles of the surveillance framework.


The strategy has been highly successful in increasing efficiency and value for money in the terrestrial surveillance programme. JNCC’s surveillance and monitoring programme budget in 2006/07 was £1,188k; in 2014/15 it is £1,133k. In 2007, the programme was able to monitor a range of birds, bats, and butterflies in high quality habitat, and could provide population or distribution trend for  around 200 species. By 2014, the programme monitored a slightly wider range of birds, more bats, butterflies at double the number of locations and in a way that is representative of the countryside, and can provide population or distribution trend information for over 3,000 species. In addition, support provided to develop the new National Plant Monitoring Scheme will contribute to understanding habitat condition. Investment has also been made over the last three years into research to improve habitat monitoring by better application and analysis of remote-sensed data. 


The strategy and its components are designed to help:

  • Funders or organisers of one or more biodiversity surveillance schemes. The strategy can help to judge the value of an investment, and help to review and address surveillance needs.
  • Participants in a surveillance scheme. The strategy can give an impression of the importance of volunteer contribution in the wider scheme of biodiversity surveillance, and why the schemes sometimes change. The results from some of the schemes help show how work is used singly or with other surveillance to give more evidence about drivers and pressures on particular components of biodiversity.
  • Designers or reviewers of surveillance schemes. The strategy can be used to produce effective and efficient surveillance designs, identifying real surveillance gaps to avoid duplication of effort.  It can help decide on the most appropriate scale for surveillance schemes, and the best approach to take when monitoring rare or scare species or habitats.
  • Policy makers needing information on the impacts of a particular pressure on biodiversity.  The strategy allows assessment of current coverage and show how evidence needs fit with each of the main strategy objectives.


If there is no single scheme addressing a particular interest, the partnership monitoring schemes pages or UKEOF can help to identify a mix of existing schemes which may help to provide the evidence needed without setting up a new scheme.