UK BAP reporting on the high wire

New technology assists accurate analysis


The UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) established a planned approach to achieving the recovery of the United Kingdom's threatened habitats and species. It sets out Action Plans for 391 species and 45 habitats, which cover not only rare species and habitats, but widespread ones such as skylark, brown hare and lowland heathland, that have declined considerably in recent decades. Action is also being taken at local level through 161 Local Biodiversity Action Plans. Achieving the targets set out in these action plans is an important measure of conservation progress, so regular reporting on these targets is important.
The first reporting round took place in 1999. It was not easy. The reporting process was paper-based and labour intensive, and difficulties were encountered in extracting information from free text. Although the next reporting round was not scheduled until 2005, Government requested an interim report and this was undertaken in 2002. To overcome the problems encountered in 1999, the 2002 reporting round was staged entirely on-line. This is the first time an official multi-institutional reporting activity has been completely electronic and collected via the web in the conservation sector.
So, how did this new system fare? Requests for information were sent to all Lead Partners and Local Biodiversity Action Plan officers. Respondents completed forms on-line by selecting answers from predetermined options customised for their plan. Reporting success was high with 94% of Lead Partners sending in reports comprising all Habitat Action Plans and 93% Species Action Plans. One hundred and twenty three Local Biodiversity Action Plans sent in reports. Overall impressions indicate that the on-line system was useful and convenient. Further, a more detailed analysis of these data was possible than had been expected.
The conclusions from the reporting round on progress towards BAP targets are mixed; for some species and habitats, the situation is improving, and there have been a number of notable successes.
For others, the decline continues. The 2002 report is available on the UK BAP website Planning is already underway for the main reporting round in 2005, and this too will be on-line.
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