Biodiversity indicators

The latest updates of the UK and England bird indicators based on population trends of wild birds, were published on October 29, 2015. These indicators are part of the government’s suite of biodiversity indicators and show how the fortunes of birds of farmland, woodland, waterways and wetlands, and marine and coastal areas have fared between 1970 and 2014.

The information used to calculate these trends are collected almost entirely by volunteers participating in a number of carefully-designed bird monitoring schemes such as the Breeding Bird Survey, the Waterways Breeding Bird Survey, the Wetland Bird Survey and special species surveys. Results from seabird monitoring by JNCC and its partners are also used. The composite indicators are produced jointly by the BTO and RSPB under contract to Defra.

Key messages from this year's update

  • There has been little overall change in the UKall-species indicator since the early 1990s. With a small increase occurring between 2013 and 2014, the unsmoothed index is 9% lower than its 1970 baseline.
  • In 2014, the breeding farmland bird index in the UK was less than half (a decline of 54 per cent) of its 1970 level – the second lowest level recorded.
  • In 2014, the breeding woodland bird index in the UK was 20 per cent lower than its 1970 level – up slightly from the second lowest level ever recorded last year.
  • In 2014, the breeding water and wetland bird index in the UK was 15 per cent lower than its 1975 level. There was a significant decline in the smoothed index of 12 per cent between 2008 and 2013.
  • In 2014, the breeding seabird index in the UK was 27 per cent lower than its level in 1986 – a small improvement on the lowest ever level recorded last year. Most of the decline has occurred since 2003; there has been an ongoing decline of nine per cent in the short term since 2008.
  • In the winter of 2013-14 the wintering waterbird index in the UK was almost double its 1975-76 level (up 93 per cent). The index peaked in the late 1990s, and has declined since, with the smoothed index falling by almost seven per cent in the short term in the last five years.

Populations of wild birds in the UK, by habitat, 1970 to 2014

Figure 1. Populations of wild birds in the UK, by habitat, 1970 to 2014.

Source: BTO, Defra, JNCC, RSPB.

Note:

  1. Figures in brackets show the number of species.
  2. Graph shows unsmoothed trends (dashed lines) and smoothed trends (solid lines). No smoothed trend is available for seabirds as individual species population trends are based on full counts at colonies or wetland and coastal sites.

Populations of wintering waterbirds in the UK, 1975/76 to 2013/14

Figure 2. Populations of wintering waterbirds in the UK, 1975/76 to 2013/14.

Source: BTO, Defra, JNCC, RSPB.

Note:

  1. Figures in brackets show the number of species.
  2. Graph shows unsmoothed trends.