Environmentalists have accused the UK government of ‘cowardice’ over its decision to publish less than a third of the metrics it uses to monitor wildlife health in England this year.
Close monitoring of biodiversity indicators is an essential part of monitoring and managing threats, such as climate change.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had previously said it would discontinue reporting on all biodiversity indicators by 2022 so it could align with UN targets.
However, under pressure from environmentalists, it has now announced that it will publish seven of its 24 indicators for England by 2022 – excluding those on water quality, habitats and bird populations.
defra added that this year’s full review will be published in 2023 and don’t expect the delay to lead to data loss.
However, campaigners argue that the announcement ahead of the UN’s biodiversity summit in December is a blatant attempt to “bury the evidence” that it is failing to address wildlife loss.
“It is inappropriate and irresponsible to try to obscure the scale of the challenge we face,” Elliot Chapman Jones, head of public affairs for The Wildlife Trusts, told MailOnline.
Only seven of the 24 indicators for England will be published before 2022, excluding those for water quality, habitats and bird populations. Pictured, a redshank – one of the United Kingdom’s endangered bird species
The silent announcement of the shortened list of biodiversity data comes after the government said it would temporarily suspend the publication of the 2022 statistics. Pictured: Pollution in Lake Windermere, Lake District
WHAT IS BIODIVERSITY?
Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth.
It includes diversity the number of species of plants and animals, the genetic diversity within and between these species and the different biomes and ecosystems of which they are part.
It provides us with food directly or through pollination, medical discoveries and ecosystem services.
The latter include everything from cleaning water and absorbing chemicals, which wetlands do, to providing oxygen for us to breathe.
The Earth’s biodiversity is declining due to activities such as deforestation, land use change, agricultural intensification, over-consumption of natural resources, pollution and climate change.
The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced the decision to publish the data in a footnote on last year’s biodiversity strategy and indicator assessment.
Last year, New Scientist Revealed that the government would temporarily stop publishing its biodiversity data for 2022.
Defra now seems to have stepped back and decided to publish a limited set of indicators this year instead.
These include global impacts on biodiversity, air pollution, protected areas, priority species status (relative abundance), butterflies, pollinating insects and biodiversity expenditure.
These ‘have been chosen based on data availability, user needs and timeliness’, according to Defra.
However, they exclude the status of endangered habitats of European importance, forest species, pollution (air and sea), and removal of greenhouse gases from forests, along with 13 others.
Richard Benwell of the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition told the END report: ‘This year’s limited set of indicators cannot obscure the story behind the numbers.
“Instead of rapid progress toward species and habitat restoration, we are seeing sites and species continue to decline.”
Mr Chapman Jones of the Wildlife Trust added: ‘Our natural world is in a difficult position with 15 per cent of species at risk of disappearing forever.
“The UK government should provide a full picture of how species are faring, rather than pick numbers to help tell the best PR story.
‘Our future on Earth depends on the health of our natural world.’
Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB, told MailOnline: ‘It is a strange and deeply disturbing decision, in the midst of a climate and natural disaster, not to publish progress on the majority of England’s wildlife indicator targets this year.
“These goals really matter because they show how the government is doing in practice to make progress towards the welcome ambitions it has set to restore our natural world within a generation.
‘In a few months’ time, the UK aims to play a leading role in the global COP 15 on nature.
“How can we get others to act if we’re not transparent and measure our own progress in the wildlife and wild areas that people love at home?”
Naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham said: new scientist: ‘Cherry picking which is just cowardice.
“Saying they need a break in a time of absolute crisis is like saying we’ll stop the fire brigade in the middle of the blitz so we can pull together and think about what we’re doing.
‘It’s ridiculous. I think it’s mainly because the news that comes out is bad news.’
Conservationist Mark Avery, co-founder of campaigning nonprofit Wild Justice, said: new scientist: ‘Defra is failing to address the loss of wildlife and so it has decided to bury the evidence.
“This is a shameless department.”
In a statement, Defra said the decision to delay the publication of its biodiversity indicators will not lead to missing data.
“Data that would have been published this year will be available in 2023,” it reads.
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) states that the revision of the indicators is “to take into account the new 2030 global biodiversity framework under negotiation under the Convention on Biological Diversity”
The next UN summit on biodiversity – where the parties to the convention meet – will be held in Montreal, Canada, in December.
This is to discuss the Global Biodiversity Framework and set a set of goals to halt the decline in global biodiversity by 2030.
The first part of the historic gatherings took place virtually last October from Kunming, China, and has been delayed due to the pandemic.
It is intended as a successor to the strategic plan for biodiversity from 2011 to 2020, which sets out the 20 Aichi biodiversity goals.
The UN Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 report, published in 2020, revealed that the world has not fully met any of its conservation goals.
Climate change will threaten nearly one in three species of all species with extinction by 2100, a new study finds
Climate change is intensifying the global extinction crisis, a new study warns.
A research team, led by the University of Minnesota, found that by 2100, nearly one in three — 30 percent — of all species will be extinct or endangered.
This is mainly due to the loss of biodiversity resulting from production and consumption, the human population and climate change.
Most species include plants and insects, along with other invertebrates, which play key roles in purifying air, filtering water, and ensuring the health of the earth.
Read more here
Climate change is intensifying the global extinction crisis, a new study warns. A research team, led by the University of Minnesota, found that by 2100, nearly one in three — 30 percent — of all species will be extinct or endangered.