Link’s ‘Targeting Nature’s Recovery’ report makes recommendations for better species conservation

Wildlife and Countryside Link (‘Link’) have produced a report entitled ‘Targeting Nature’s Recovery’ outlining the group’s analysis of the UK’s progress against its 2010 targets for the conservation of priority habitats and species.

These targets were agreed in 2006, based on a list of priority species identified under the original UK Biodiversity Action Plan from 1999, and gave desired outcomes for 2010, 2015 and longer timescales. Targets were either maintenance targets aimed at ‘holding the line’ – sustaining the size and distribution of existing populations – or expansion targets for ‘restoring lost nature’ – increasing numbers and/or range, restoring former status or making population more resilient to external threats.

Link states that measuring progress towards the 2010 aim of these targets should have been a key way for UK Government’s to assess its achievements against its international commitment under the Convention in Biological Diversity to halt biodiversity loss by 2010. However, the group has been disappointed with the Government’s lack of action on measuring the conservation progress on these individual species targets.

Consequently, Link members decided to carry out their own assessment of progress on targets for a selection of BAP species; looking at 150 targets covering 69 of the original 303 BAP priority species, the group concludes that progress has been patchy:
• Although populations and range are being maintained for 63% of the species assessed, 30% are still declining
• Expansion targets have been achieved for 21% of species assessed, and at least some progress had been made for a further 46% of species. However, for one quarter of species, there has been no progress against targets.

As Link acknowledges, this assessment is not based on a random sample and may not be fully representative of the overall state of all BAP priority species; the group compares its findings to species trend assessments made during a BAP reporting round in 2008, and suggests that their analysis may actually paint a more positive picture than is the true status of all BAP priority species.

Concluding the report, Link stresses the need for urgent implementation of recommendations it made in its response to the revised England Biodiversity Strategy – Biodiversity 2020 – published in 2011:
1. The Biodiversity 2020 implementation plan should include actions to improve the status of all UK priority species
2. Statutory agencies – including Natural England – must proactively adapt their programmes to integrate the needs of priority species into site and habitat conservation activity
3. Assessments should be undertaken for all landscape-scale conservation initiatives and Local Nature Partnerships to identify which priority species will benefit
4. A clear programme of species-specific action must be outlined for priority species most at risk of extinction and/or unlikely to be adequately conserved through a habitat-focused approach
5. Monitoring programmes should be modified or designed to measure progress on priority species.

Link are currently working on producing a list of actions required to achieve these recommendations. For more information on this and Link’s other work, see the website.