Biodiversity Audit

NatureScot has been asked by the Scottish Government to develop a simple whole farm Biodiversity Audit to be used by farmers and crofters to manage for biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety of life that surrounds us, in our forests, seas, fields and soils, it underpins the services that nature provides that sustain our lives. Increased biodiversity brings many benefits, increased pollinators,healthier soils and it can improve food productivity by providing resistance to pests and diseases and the ability to grow food in the face of changing climate conditions.

Maintaining and improving biodiversity is a key part of the Government’s agricultural reform programme and an audit is one element of the “whole farm plan” which farmers and crofters will be required to adopt after 2025. In the future farming funding is to be linked to targeted outcomes for biodiversity gain and low emissions production. It’s important for farmers to have access to a tool that will help them establish what the baseline measure of biodiversity is on their land.

The audit will allow all land managers a greater understanding of biodiversity, the potential there is to restore it and how through sustainable and regenerative agriculture they can help tackle the nature crisis. We are taking a four-step approach to this:

Step 1 – map the existing habitats – ‘quantity’

Step 2 – measure the condition of these habitats – ‘quality’

Step 3 – manage to maintain or increase the condition of the habitats

Step 4 – monitoring the habitats.

We are focussing first on Steps 1 & 2, which will enable farmers and crofters to improve their knowledge and understanding of the habitats on their farm and their current condition – this helps them make informed decisions on management to improve biodiversity which encourages the species these habitats support. Ultimately, this will contribute to delivering the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy aims to halt biodiversity loss by 2030 and restore biodiversity by 2045.

We want to enable farmers to be able to create a map showing the key habitats and features across their farms, new habitat layers are now available to farmers through LPIS (land parcel identification system) which provides existing habitat information from open source data. This will be checked for accuracy by the farmers and they will be able to amend the habitat categories and boundaries through new LPIS functionality. NatureScot staff will also be testing the data, working with circa 80 farmers and crofters who are participants of our POBAS project (Piloting an Outcome Based Approach in Scotland.) Measuring the condition of these habitats and features will be done using scorecards, where you can record a condition value or a presence/absence, this builds on the experience of the POBAS project. 

We are in the development stages of a farmer friendly mobile app. Farmers and crofters will be able to carry out a biodiversity audit digitally through a single platform by carrying out an assessment in the field on the app and viewing the results through an accompanying web portal.

We will be adding further groups of farmers and crofters to test the audit, it’s the input and feedback from the agricultural community that shapes the audit we are developing, to ensure its end users will be satisfied with the result.

Biodiversity Audit Project Update –  June 2023

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