Statistical News Release: The Proportion of Scotland's Protected Sites in Favourable Condition 2022

22 June 2022

NatureScot has today released the latest figures tracking the proportion of Scottish natural features in favourable or recovering condition.

The main findings show that, as of 31st March 2022, 77.9% of Scotland’s natural features on protected nature sites are either in or recovering towards a favourable condition. This figure represents a 1.9 percentage point increase since the current protocols were established in 2007, despite a 0.4 percentage point1 decrease since last year.

The report draws on annual monitoring carried out by NatureScot of the condition of the 5,590 natural features across Scotland. As of 31st March 2022, 5,301 natural features were assessed, divided into three categories: habitats (77.6% in favourable condition), species (72.3% in favourable condition) and earth sciences, which includes geographical outcrops and landforms, fossil beds, and caves (96.8% in favourable condition).

60 SCM feature assessments were completed in 2021/22 owing to Covid-related lockdown restrictions and staff absences.

Overall, the condition of 3 natural features on protected areas has improved to favourable condition and a further 3 were assessed for the first time and found to be favourable. In contrast, 26 natural features on protected areas have deteriorated to unfavourable condition.

Other findings of note from the report include:

  • Most species feature categories had no change in the proportion of features in favourable condition.  Birds was the only species feature category to have a change (0.2 percentage point decrease).
  • Freshwater and upland features were the only feature categories that had an increase in the proportion of features in favourable condition (0.8 and 0.4 percentage point increase, respectively).
  • Marine habitats saw a 2 percentage point decrease in natural features in favourable condition (this represents 2 features declining), the largest decrease overall, followed by woodland and wetland habitats, which experienced a 0.5 and 0.4 percentage point decrease.  
  • The natural feature types with the highest proportion in favourable condition were dragonflies (100%), earth science (96.8%) and marine habitats (96.1%).
  • The natural feature types with the lowest proportion in favourable condition remains marine mammals (58.6%), woodlands (62.8%) and birds (66.7%).
  • As there were fewer assessments this year, 9 natural feature types have no change in their proportion of features in favourable condition.

Invasive species are the main reason for natural features being in unfavourable condition, representing 21.2% of all negative pressures, which is the same as last year. This category includes both native species such as bracken or nettles, and non-native species such as rhododendron or Japanese knotweed. The removal of these species has to be undertaken to promote recovery to favourable condition.

There are 428 natural features with no on-site remedy which is an increase from 426 last year.  These are features where the pressure is beyond the boundary of the feature itself or nearby and so to bring these natural features into favourable condition is beyond local management.

1 A difference of less than +/-1 percentage point from last year's figure suggests that the position is more likely to be maintaining than showing any change.

See the full statistical publication.