OEP response statement to publication of species abundance statistics, Friday 3 May

Government has today published indicators of species abundance in England. They can be found here.

Professor Robbie McDonald, Chief Scientist for the OEP, said: “We welcome Defra’s publication of the Species Abundance Indicators as Official Statistics In Development. This is an important step in improving the availability of data about England’s environment, and we can see the analysis and statistical underpinnings are high quality. The transparency of the approach, the analysis and breakdown of details, along with the invitation for input, are all valuable features.

“The availability of these data is testament to the hard work of hundreds, if not thousands, of citizen scientists who survey England’s wildlife every year.

“These are the statistics by which Government will be judged on the legally-binding Environment Act target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030. The data show the scale of the challenge we now face to restore nature, particularly for priority species. Government must first halt this decline by 2030 and then reverse it by 2042. It will be important to increase confidence in these statistics, and reduce uncertainty, particularly when making comparisons over short time periods, so that we can be confident if and when the decline has truly been halted and nature’s recovery is being delivered.

“Our work to monitor Government’s progress against its Environmental Improvement Plan has found that it is largely off track, and that it must speed up and scale up its efforts. Detailed and robust action plans that set out how it will meet its obligations and legally-binding targets are needed, and should be available for all those who must play a part in that work.

“The indicator provides good coverage of species living on land and in freshwater, but has scant coverage of marine species. We would like to see that statistics, the species abundance targets, and conservation actions pay due regard to halting the loss of marine biodiversity.”