Looking forward to 2020: A route map for Scotland’s biodiversity

In October 2010, the world’s governments met in Aichi to establish twenty targets aimed at halting global biodiversity loss by the end of the decade. Now, halfway through the UN Decade of Biodiversity, and with just five years (or at the time of writing, 1998 days) remaining until the 2020 deadline for meeting the Aichi Targets, national and international institutions are taking stock of their progress towards these goals.

Globally, the picture is mixed. Last year’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 found that while significant progress is being made towards many of the targets, current trends suggest that we will fall short of meeting them. Similarly, in Europe, the recent State of Nature in the EU report stated that despite many examples of the positive impacts of the European Nature Directives and the Natura 2000 network, overall we are not on track to halt the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services on the continent by 2020.

Meeting the 2020 Challenge

In the UK, biodiversity policy is a devolved matter, and last week the Scottish Government released  Scotland’s Biodiversity: a Route Map to 2020, setting out the priority themes and actions for delivering the 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity, the Government’s 2013 response to the Aichi Targets. The Route Map identifies six “Big Steps for Nature” intended to improve the state of nature in Scotland and secure the benefits biodiversity brings to the nation’s wellbeing and prosperity. The document will be periodically updated to report on progress and outline further planned work.

The six “Big Steps for Nature” are:

1. “Ecosystem restoration: to reverse historical losses of habitats and ecosystems, to meet the Aichi target of restoring 15% of degraded ecosystems”. Priorities include the restoration of peatland through the implementation of the National Peatland Plan, and the restoration of native woodland and freshwaters.

2. “Investment in natural capital: to ensure the benefits which nature provides are better understood and appreciated, leading to better management of our renewable and non-renewable natural assets”. Specific projects are focused on engaging businesses by demonstrating the benefits of improving natural capital and securing investment, for example through the Peatland Carbon Code.

3. “Quality greenspace for health and education benefits: to ensure that the majority of people derive increased benefits from contact with nature where they live and work”. Ongoing and planned activities are directed towards increasing participation in outdoor recreation and volunteering, outdoor learning in primary and secondary schools, and promoting use of the “natural” health service.

4. “Conserving wildlife in Scotland: to secure the future of priority habitats and species”. Actions aim to improve the condition of protected sites – with an aim of securing 80% of features in favourable condition – and to drive conservation of protected species ranging from the freshwater pearl mussel to red squirrels and hen harriers. Future planned activity new strategies for pollinators and plant health.

5. “Sustainable management of land and freshwater: to ensure that environmental, social and economic elements are well balanced”. Primary concerns include improving habitat connectivity by developing a national ecological network, and enhancing sustainable land management through the Common Agricultural Policy.

6. “Sustainable management of marine and coastal ecosystems: to secure a healthy balance between environmental, social and economic elements”. Central to this aim is the completion of Scotland’s network of Marine Protected Areas, encompassing 10% of the nation’s seas.

Monitoring in Action

The route map is ambitious and clear in its aims, but implementation and effective monitoring of success will be crucial. At last year’s Protecting Scotland’s Biodiversity: Monitoring in Action conference, co-organised by the BES Scottish Policy Group, while the extent of the challenge of effectively tracking environmental change with limited resources was evident, the embrace of innovative new technologies and openness to collaboration suggested a productive way forward. The Route Map identifies two sets of indicators that will be used to monitor progress: Scotland’s Biodiversity State Indicators and Scotland’s Biodiversity Engagement Indicators, with a new set of Ecosystem Health Indicators also under development.

Sound ecological science will be essential to informing the delivery and evaluation of the Route Map, and the BES Scottish Policy Group will continue to find ways to inform the development of environmental policy in Scotland, and foster dialogue between scientists and policymakers. Keep your eyes peeled for new events to be announced soon, including the next edition of “Pie and a Pint”, and a workshop at the BES Annual Meeting in Edinburgh. If you would like to get involved with the Scottish Policy Group or have an idea for an event, please get in touch.

Find out more about the Scottish Policy Group