What are the National Biodiversity Indicators?
The National Biodiversity Indicators are a suite of 71 sub-indicators, grouped under eight focal areas, that provide a high-level overview of how Ireland is addressing the biodiversity crisis. The indicators incorporate quantitative measures that summarise trends around knowledge and understanding of biodiversity, society’s engagement with biodiversity, and public policy response to address the biodiversity crisis. The suite of indicators was updated using data to the end of 2020, and the latest Status and Trends report has just been published (read the report here). The National Biodiversity Indicators are collated and reported on by the National Biodiversity Data Centre on behalf of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The updated indicators collate data and information from 33 different organisations from both governmental and non-governmental backgrounds, and the updated indicators can be viewed on a dedicated website https://indicators.biodiversityireland.ie/.
Main findings from the most recent update
Overall, the most recent update highlights that out of the 71 sub-indicators that have data, 76% of them show static or poor progress in delivering biodiversity conservation, 21% show progress has been made and another 3% are uncertain. The main progress being made is in the focal area of ‘Awareness of Biodiversity’ with positive current, short-term and long-term trends evident.
One sub-indicator of note within this focal area is ‘Trends on biodiversity in the Eurobarometer’. The Eurobarometer is a longstanding public opinion survey facilitated by the European Commission since the 1970s. Flash Eurobarometer surveys focus on subjects surrounding biodiversity and are conducted every few years to clarify how familiar EU citizens are with the term biodiversity and with the concept of biodiversity loss. Figure 1 shows Ireland’s responses to the survey questions and highlights important points such as the growth in the percentage of people hearing of the term ‘biodiversity’ since 2007 (Trends on biodiversity in the Eurobarometer).
The status and trends of the focal areas ‘Status of Biodiversity’ and ‘Measures that Mainstream Biodiversity’ portray a very different story however, with only 1 positive current status and 5 positive short-term and long-term trends across the 20 sub-indicators.
One sub-indicator of note within the ‘Status of Biodiversity’ focal area is the ‘Trends in the status of bumblebees’ which has a negative current and short-term status. As seen in Figure 2, the data measuring the population trends of 8 of the most common bee species in Ireland shows an overall loss in population size since 2012. The overall trend from 2012-2019 is a year-on-year decline of 4.8% (Trends in the status of bumblebees).
Another sub-indicator of note due to it’s negative current and short term trends is the ‘Level of compliance with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive‘, which falls under the focal ‘Measures that Mainstream Biodiversity’. The status of this indicator is mainly driven by the fact that despite a drop in the number of large urban areas failing to meet EU standards in the last number of years (Figure 3), the waste water collected in these sites accounted for 54% of all waste water collected in Ireland’s public sewers in 2020 (Compliance with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive).
Overall, the biodiversity indicators demonstrate that more concerted action is needed if Ireland is to meet national policy targets and international conservation targets set by the EU and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.