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The State of Nature

What does the State of Nature report mean for our Future Nature strategy and National Park?

Where are we now?

As part of our Future Nature Route Map we made a commitment to set a clear baseline for the State of Nature in the National Park within the first year of the delivery plan.

This is an essential element of taking an evidence-based approach to the restoration of nature across the National Park. The task of completing this review was commissioned through a competitive tender process to a company called Ecosulis who carried out the analysis and completed the report in the summer of 2023.

Assessing an overall State of Nature is complex, requiring assessment of a wide range of factors and indicators.  The report therefore pulled together a wide range of sources and analysed datasets in order to give an overview of the baseline for nature in the National Park.

It took two points of comparison:

  • It looked at datasets which allowed comparison of progress within the National Park over approximately the last ten years
  • It also looked at comparisons between the National Park and the rest of Scotland

What did it conclude?

The prior research and context already set in preparing the Future Nature Route Map and draft National Park Partnership Plan meant we were already well aware that the National Park is not immune to the global biodiversity crisis and nature is still in trouble here.  We were therefore not surprised that the overall assessment was a mixed picture for nature:

  • We were pleased to see that some progress has been made. On some indicators the National Park has seen improvements for nature over the last ten years, and again, on some measures is doing somewhat better than the rest of Scotland
  • However, the report clearly states the context for those positive signs – that “although Scotland is renowned for its wonderful wildlife, it is still one of the most nature depleted countries in the world and experiencing major declines in biodiversity: the 2019 Scottish State of Nature report found that 49% of Scottish species have decreased in abundance in the last two decades.” And headlines from the 2023 Scotland’s State of Nature report conclude:
    • Scottish wildlife has decreased on average by 15% since 1994
    • Since 1970 the distribution of 47% of flowering plants has decreased
    • 11% (One in nine) Scottish species are threatened with extinction
    • 49% Scotland’s seabirds have declined by 49% between 1986 and 2019
  • In this context it is clear that doing a little better (on some measures) than the last ten years and than Scotland overall does not match the aspirations to restore nature and deliver a resilient, nature-rich National Park and therefore “although the park may be performing relatively well compared to some benchmarks, it still falls significantly short of the ambitious goals set for a National Park”
  • The report highlights in particular Invasive Non-Native Species, peatland erosion and drainage and deer grazing pressure, particularly in wooded areas as major challenges to the State of Nature in the National Park
  • It also highlights considerable data gaps which we will need to continue to fill to build as full a picture of possible to steer delivery in the years to come.

What’s next?

The National Park Authority is committed to reviewing the State of Nature every 5 years to assess the long-term impacts of our Future Nature delivery plan. This will be alongside more regular annual reporting focusing on the delivery outputs of work by the National Park Authority and other Future Nature collaborators.

Follow up work will aim to establish a summary set of indicators which can be used to track progress as well as to establish targets and parameters which mean by the next State of Nature review we are able not only to compare progress against the current baseline and against the rest of Scotland, but also against a defined ‘end-state’ which quantifies a definition of ending nature loss and restoring nature to achieve the vision of a vibrant, nature rich National Park.

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