Ecological Status is a biodiversity index developed by the Biological Records Centre from national plant and animal observations. It is calculated for each 10km square of Great Britain and is relative to the Environmental Zone that that square occurs in. An Environmental Zone is a region of broadly similar environmental characteristics and is used here to control for non-biological factors that affect biodiversity (e.g. geology and climate).
The aim of this tool is to provide information which reflects the quality of 10 x 10km cells ('hectads') for biodiversity. A higher quality hectad, here after referred to as one with higher 'ecological status', is one in which the detrimental effects of land use which are harmful to biodiversity are absent. To reflect this ecological status, it does not make sense to compare species richness from hectads across the whole country, because abiotic factors such as climate and geology primarily determine large scale patterns in biodiversity. To control for these factors, therefore, our analyses is stratified by 45 Environmental Zones which delineate areas of similar abiotic conditions (derived from the 2007-updated ITE land classification, Bunce et al. 1996). Ecological status is the expressed in each Environmental Zone for the period 2000-2013.
To create the ecological status indicator we used species occurrence records from the UK Biological Records Centre from 11 taxonomic groups (bees, birds, byrophytes, butterflies, carabid beetles, grasshoppers and crickets , hoverflies, isopods, ladybirds, macromoths, and native vascular plants; using over 5000 species in total) for the years 2000-2013. For each taxonomic group, species richness in each hectad was estimated using the method Frescalo (Hill 2012) which accounts for variation in recorder effort. These species richness estimates for each hectad were then expressed relative to the maximum species richness of all hectads in the same Environmental Zone, for the same taxonomic group, from the historical baseline period 1970-1990. This produces a measure of 'ecological status' which reflects how speciose a hectad actually is relative how good we know it could be given the abiotic conditions. We then combined ecological status scores from across all taxonomic groups by taking a mean for each hectad. Therefore in this formulation of the Aggregate Ecological Status indicator each taxonomic group contributes an equal weighting. More details of the method including a case study can be found in (Dyer et al. 2017).
More information about this dataset and how to obtain it can be found here: http://doi.org/10.5285/58b248a8-6e34-4ffb-ae32-3744566399a2
For information about the environmental stratification can be found here: http://doi.org/10.5285/58b248a8-6e34-4ffb-ae32-3744566399a2
Bunce, R.G.H., Barr, C.J., Clarke, R.T., Howard, D.C. & Lane, A.M.J. (1996) Land Classification for Strategic Ecological Survey. Journal of Environmental Management, 47, 37-60.
Dyer, R.J., Gillings, S., Pywell, R.F., Fox, R., Roy, D.B. & Oliver, T.H. (2017). Developing a biodiversity-based indicator for large-scale environmental assessment: a case study of proposed shale gas extraction sites in Britain. J. Appl. Ecol., 54, 872-882. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12784 OPEN ACCESS
Dyer, R.; Oliver, T. (2016). UK ecological status map version 2. NERC Environmental Information Data Centre. http://doi.org/10.5285/58b248a8-6e34-4ffb-ae32-3744566399a2
Hill, M.O. (2012) Local frequency as a key to interpreting species occurrence data when recording effort is not known. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 3, 195-205.
We are indebted to the national schemes and societies who have contributed species records to these analyses. They include the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society, Botanical Society of the British Isles, British Bryological Society, British Myriapod and Isopod Group (Non-marine Isopoda Recording Scheme), British Trust for Ornithology, Butterfly Conservation, Hoverfly Recording Scheme, Ground Beetle Recording Scheme, Ladybird Recording Scheme, National Moth Recording Scheme and the Orthoptera Recording Scheme. This project was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council under the SouthWest Tellus Project (http://www.tellusgb.ac.uk/). BRC is funded by CEH and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.