8th Meeting of the UK Biodiversity Indicators Forum (BIF8)
Are our species indicators fit for purpose?

Wednesday 4 June 2014, The Royal Society, London


Workshop aims and objectives

The UK Government and Devolved Administrations are committed to safeguarding biodiversity across the UK and contributing to efforts to reduce rates of biodiversity decline.


Having a flexible framework of indicators is key to ensuring efficient, transparent and evidence-based reporting on progress towards targets at international (e.g. 'Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020' and the ‘Aichi Biodiversity Targets'), European (e.g. European Union Biodiversity Strategy), and UK and country (e.g. each devolved administration Biodiversity Strategies) scales.


The indicators used to measure progress in delivering the UK Biodiversity Framework (Biodiversity Indicators in Your Pocket) are published annually, and include state, pressure, response and benefit indicators.  Data that underpins the indicators comes from a variety of sources – Government, stakeholders and NGOs; much of the species data comes from volunteer recording.  A number of these UK indicators are replicated at the national scale.


We have been using indicators of populations of birds, butterflies and bats to assess national biodiversity strategies for many years, but in a changing policy context are they really fit for purpose?


We want to explore this question in two parts:


(a) How good are the established indicators at showing changes in species populations and how can they be improved in the short term?

To assess the robustness of the existing species trends, the workshop will focus on the underlying data and analysis, providing external scrutiny and peer review.  Discussion will focus on three themes:

  1. Communicating uncertainty:  Points to consider include whether the data is collected via a stratified random sampling strategy, or is it more ad-hoc?  Is the methodology published in the peer reviewed literature?  Is the data modelled in such a way that uncertainty is increased?
  2. Explaining meaning (to a non-technical audience): Is the trend interpreted objectively?  Is the trend ecologically significant?  What do we know about causality?
  3. Increasing certainty through changes to data collection or analysis: What improvements can be made to data collection and analysis to increase confidence?


(b) Can we go beyond trends for a few narrow taxonomic groups to more comprehensive indicators of biodiversity and ecological communities in the longer term?

The Natural Capital Committee’s 2nd report on the State of Natural Capital is critical of the current usage of biodiversity indicators which present complex, multiple trends for selected components of biodiversity but do not provide an overview of the state of biodiversity or ecological communities.  The workshop will consider what can be done to address this challenge.           


A copy of the final report can be viewed here.