Measuring biodiversity: research into approaches: This report considers methodologies for measuring biodiversity at site-level for use in Scotland.

Alistair McVittie, Lorna J Cole, Julia M McCarthy, Harry Fisher, Hannah Rudman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefResearch reportpeer-review

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Scotland has a suite of biodiversity indicators that assess broad trends in
biodiversity at the national level and measure progress against biodiversity targets.
However, at present there is no single agreed Scottish biodiversity metric or
measurement tool to assess biodiversity at the site, or project, scale. An agreed
Scottish approach to measuring biodiversity would allow for consistent and
comparable assessment of losses or gains in biodiversity across sites and allow
comparison and trading across sectors.
The development of a biodiversity metric or measurement tool in Scotland has
potential use across four main policy areas: natural capital markets, planning and
development, biodiversity conservation and monitoring and agriculture. These
policy areas are all at different stages of engagement with approaches to
measuring biodiversity and are working largely independently within different policy
landscapes. It is therefore important that research on a Scottish biodiversity metric
evaluates the options that best serve Scottish interests and assesses the priorities
across policy areas.
The main research findings include:
• To meet the needs of all four sectors, a framework, or standard, is needed
that integrates multiple metrics or tools to monitor biodiversity.
• This framework needs to provide consistent results, while allowing flexibility
in its application so metrics and tools within the framework could be tailored
depending on different user or policy needs.
• Priority biodiversity indicators include the extent, condition and
distinctiveness of habitats; species; ecological connectivity; presence of
irreplacable habitat; and ecosystem health and function.
• It is important that the approach to biodiversity metrics be accessible,
understandable, and flexible in how it is applied across different uses or
spatial scales.
• Biodiversity metrics for Scotland should be clear, concise and transparent,
and scientifically robust in terms of measurability.
• Biodiversity metrics for Scotland may benefit from certain elements from
existing metrics, but existing metrics do not address the full list of priority
criteria identified by stakeholders.
• With refinement, Natural England’s Biodiversity Metric 3.1 could be adapted
for planning and development use, and as part of a wider set of metrics
within a biodiversity framework. These refinements include the coverage of
habitats, and adjustments to condition assessment and mutlipliers to reflect
Scottish contexts.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe Scottish Government
Commissioning bodyScottish Government
Number of pages178
ISBN (Electronic)9781835213582
Publication statusFirst published - 20 Sept 2023


  • biodiversity metric
  • biodiversity baseline
  • biodiversity code
  • measuring biodiversity


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