The UK government will withhold data on the state of England’s wildlife


The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed that it will publish a reduced set of biodiversity indicators this year

Environment


August 1, 2022


A flock of geese at Lackford Lakes in Suffolk

Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy

The UK government has quietly decided not to publish more than two-thirds of the metrics it uses to track the health of nature in England this year, including the state of bird populations and fish stocks. The decision comes just months before a historic UN summit on biodiversity in Canada.

new scientist revealed last year that the UK government would suspend reporting on all biodiversity indicators in 2022 to allow for review taking into account new targets being considered by the biodiversity summit.

The decision this weekpublished as a footnote on the website of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), means that, in an apparent compromise, seven of the 24 annual indicators for monitoring English biodiversity will finally be published this year.

However, many of the omitted indicators, such as progress in tackling invasive species and the state of European habitats, previously showed a deterioration of the natural environment.

Each indicator is made up of one or more measures noted on a scale of traffic lights depending on whether they are improving, changing little or deteriorating. Of the indicators that will be skipped this year, 22 metrics are green, six are orange and 19 are red, according to last year’s figures.

“This year’s limited set of indicators cannot hide the story behind the numbers,” said Richard Benwell of the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition. END of report, which first released this week’s update. “Instead of rapid progress towards the recovery of species and habitats, we see that sites and species continue to decline.”

Conservationist Mark Avery, co-founder of the non-profit organization Wild Justice, says: “Defra is failing to address wildlife loss and so has decided to bury the evidence. It’s an unashamed department.

Naturalist and animator Chris Packham says, “Choosing which ones is just cowardice. Saying they need a break in a time of absolute crisis is like saying we’re going to pull the firefighters out in the middle of the Blitz so we can pull ourselves together and think about what we’re doing. It’s ridiculous. I think it’s mainly because the news that’s going to emerge is bad news.

The indicators to be published this year are global impacts on biodiversity, air pollution, protected areas, butterflies, pollinators, biodiversity expenditures and the status of priority species.

In a statement, Defra said: “To enable Defra to do the necessary review, we are releasing a baseline set this year. But no data will be lost, everything will be published [in 2023].”

Between December 5 and 17, Canada will host the UN Biodiversity Summit in Montreal to craft a new agreement on halting the decline of the world’s nature, including a set of targets for 2030. countries have already fallen far short of the targets set for 2020.

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