ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (News Release ref
:153/08) issued by The Government News Network on 22 May 2008
(International Biodiversity Day), for the first time bat and
wintering waterbird numbers will be used to measure the health of
the UK's wildlife.
They join other wildlife indicators published today as part of
the UK and England Biodiversity Indicators.
Bat species are some of the UK's most common wild mammals,
found throughout urban areas, farmland, woodland and river/lake
systems. Strict legal protection, direct conservation action and
education, and warmer winters have all helped bats on the slow
road to recovery since 1999, following long term declines in their
numbers in the second half of the 20th Century.
Bat populations remain vulnerable, which is why they serve as a
good indicator for the wider health of the UK's wildlife.
Pressures faced by bats including landscape change, agricultural
intensification, development, and habitat fragmentation are also
relevant to many other wildlife species.
The six bat species which will now be used as indicator species
are the Daubenton's bat, the noctule, lesser horseshoe,
common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and serotine.
Wintering waterbirds such as the Whooper Swan have also been
included in the UK Indicator for the first time, helping to
measure the effects of a changing climate. A recent decline in
numbers has been associated with a spate of warm winters allowing
the birds to remain in continental Europe.
The overall trend of the indicators published today shows that
since 2000 there has been general slowing and halt in the
long-term decline in populations of key species or habitats.
However it is important that efforts to halt declines are maintained.
Joan Ruddock, Minister for Biodiversity said:
"The state of our wildlife is an indicator of the health of
our environment and life itself. We can be proud of our efforts to
slow and halt the decline of wildlife. More money is being spent,
more people are volunteering for conservation and more woodland
and farmland is managed for wildlife.
"Bats are integral to the environment and are a good
indicator of the wildlife we often don't see - such as the
insects they feed on.
"The evidence for all the indicators gathered by
organisations such as the Bat Conservation Trust and its
volunteers is invaluable to better focus research and conservation action."
Amy Coyte, Chief Executive of the Bat Conservation Trust said:
"Bats are an excellent indicator of the state of the natural
environment. As our wildlife continues to struggle against many
threats, it is vital to have indicators of whether current efforts
are working. By adding bats to the suite of indicators, we will
gain a greater understanding of how our wildlife is faring."
Also published today is the list of habitats and species of
principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in
England under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.
The 56 habitats and 940 of the species are already prioritised
for conservation by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. In addition,
the Hen Harrier has been included on the list in light of the
severe declines this bird has suffered in England.
Also published today are the wild bird population indicators for
the English Regions 1994-2006.
Notes for Editors
1. Pictures of the six bat species included in the indicator are available.
2. There are 18 UK Biodiversity Indicators. 11 of the indicators
have been updated today and can be found at http://www.jncc.gov.uk/biyp
. The indicators are published on a rolling basis, and the
remaining indicators will be published later this year.
3. There are 51 England Biodiversity Indicators. The 10
published today can be found at
. The indicators are published on a rolling basis, and the
remaining indicators will be published over the next two years.
4. The bat indicators are compiled by the Bat Conservation Trust
using data collected annually from the National Bat Monitoring
Programme. A network of over 1600 volunteers record observations
at approximately 3300 sites to measure trends for 11 of the
UK's 17 resident bat species.
5. The wintering waterbird indicators are compiled by the Royal
Society for the Protection of Birds and the British Trust for
Ornithology from a number of different surveys mostly undertaken
by volunteers. The indicators show that whilst some species may
benefit from climate change, for others the impacts are
potentially damaging. The UK's coasts and wetlands are an
internationally important wintering refuge for species such as the
Whooper Swan or European White-fronted Goose. A recent spate of
warm winters has led to a reduction in numbers in the UK as the
birds winter further North and East.
6. Under section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural
Communities Act, the Secretary of State must publish a list of the
living organisms and types of habitat which are of principal
importance for the purpose of conserving biodiversity.
7. Most of these species and habitats are already found on the UK
Biodiversity Action Plan. Details can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-countryside/biodiversity/index.htm
8. The Hen Harrier is not currently on the UK Biodiversity Action
Plan, but has today been included in the statutory list. This is
in recognition that the Hen Harrier is England's most
seriously threatened bird of prey, and that without continued
conservation action it is unlikely that the population will
increase from its current low levels in England.
9. Recognition has been given to the critical role of several
habitats new to the list including traditional orchards and ponds.
In addition, some habitat definitions have changed to better
reflect our understanding of their functioning and importance.
10. Natural England today published accessible, web-based
guidance to accompany the list, which can be found at http://www.ukbap-reporting.org.uk/
11. The Wild Bird Population Indicators for the English Regions:
1994-2006 can be found at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/statistics/wildlife/research/rwbi.htm
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