Technical Information: Nature:
Scotland’s nature is protected and restored with flourishing biodiversity and clean and healthy air, water, seas and soils

Last updated: 04 November 2021

Marine & terrestrial species

Indicator Updated: 04 November 2021

Index (relative to 1994 baseline) (-)
Year Terrestrial Occupancy Terrestrial Abundance Marine Abundance
1994 100.0 100.0 100.0
1995 104.9 114.8 103.7
1996 108.8 113.5 104.7
1997 112.1 102.7 105.2
1998 114.6 92.7 103.1
1999 116.8 88.3 100.5
2000 118.8 91.3 97.2
2001 120.6 97.5 93.4
2002 122.2 103.9 88.3
2003 123.9 110.0 84.5
2004 125.5 111.8 79.3
2005 126.9 107.8 76.9
2006 127.8 101.4 75.1
2007 128.2 97.3 72.2
2008 128.0 97.4 69.4
2009 127.7 99.1 68.2
2010 127.0 97.6 65.5
2011 125.7 91.0 61.1
2012 124.2 83.2 60.5
2013 123.3 78.3 60.6
2014 123.0 75.2 62.2
2015 123.0 72.2 62.0
2016 124.0 68.7 63.7
2017 NA NA 64.1
2018 NA NA 64.6

In 2021, the new marine and terrestrial species indicator replaced the index of abundance of terrestrial breeding birds as the biodiversity indicator included in the National Performance Framework. The new indicator shows separate trends in seabird species’ abundance, terrestrial species abundance and terrestrial species’ occupancy. Occupancy trends are based on the number of sites where a species is present, reflecting the size of the range within which it is found, and can be less sensitive to change than measures of abundance. Where trend data for a species is available for both abundance and occupancy, the abundance data is used. Data for these trends are obtained from several existing sources. Their combined trends determine the overall indicator performance.

The indicators are the average of the constituent species’ trends, set to a value of 100 in the start year (the baseline). Changes subsequent to this reflect the average change in species abundance or occupancy; if on average species’ trends doubled, the indicator would rise to 200, if they halved it would fall to a value of 50. A smoothing process is used to reduce the impact of between-year fluctuations, such as might be caused by variation in weather, and so make underlying trends easier to detect.

Breakdowns for the three measures are available for the main taxonomic groups. These breakdowns can be viewed on the NatureScot website.

The marine elements of the indicator continue to be under development as new species data becomes available. Further information on marine biodiversity status can be found in the Scotland Marine Assessment 2020.

A report detailing the development of the Marine and Terrestrial Species Indicator, including the sources of the data and the methodology for producing the headline figures, was published by the Scottish Government in March 2021.

Source: NatureScot

Update Frequency: Annual

Further Information: marine and terrestrial species indicator information is available from NatureScot. Information on Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy Indicators is available here – these indicators track more detailed changes in biodiversity forScotland’s species, habitats and ecosystems.




Air pollutant emissions

Indicator Updated: 16 December 2021

Indexed to 2005 Values

Air pollutant concentrations (relative to 2005 baseline) (-)
Year CO NOx PM10 PM2.5 SO2 VOC NH3 Pb Dioxins
2005 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
2006 94.9 101.7 99.6 99.4 108.7 97.2 97.1 92.2 89.0
2007 88.3 96.7 94.1 93.3 90.4 96.5 95.8 80.5 82.2
2008 86.4 87.6 85.5 86.4 78.6 92.1 90.4 70.9 84.2
2009 73.0 77.2 79.2 80.2 77.0 81.6 90.6 69.1 78.4
2010 70.3 75.8 85.9 84.5 93.2 81.9 91.3 77.2 77.3
2011 63.7 66.4 77.1 74.4 70.0 80.2 91.2 68.5 75.6
2012 60.0 65.8 73.0 73.0 68.7 82.9 89.5 72.3 75.1
2013 57.7 62.7 73.7 70.8 50.8 80.9 87.6 63.0 74.0
2014 53.5 60.3 71.7 67.5 38.2 81.1 91.0 63.7 67.1
2015 52.7 57.9 69.1 66.7 30.1 83.5 91.9 64.2 67.7
2016 50.2 51.9 70.6 66.7 19.9 85.2 94.1 60.4 66.8
2017 49.5 51.6 72.2 66.1 16.0 84.9 91.1 63.4 65.9
2018 49.6 47.7 72.5 66.7 15.0 86.3 90.1 61.5 65.7
2019 49.4 46.8 70.2 66.7 15.3 84.8 90.6 63.0 65.0

Emissions in kilotonnes

Air pollutant emissions (Kt)
Year CO NOx PM10 PM2.5 SO2 VOC NH3 Pb Dioxins
1990 658.68 323.43 40.20 25.72 313.96 404.15 36.96 0.21 80.25
1995 464.07 267.95 30.20 19.33 207.58 310.93 34.93 0.11 48.48
1998 379.79 232.05 26.62 17.14 145.25 276.40 36.85 0.06 32.70
1999 353.47 223.04 26.01 16.91 125.05 247.19 35.49 0.04 31.24
2000 306.42 217.59 24.82 15.37 141.85 233.89 35.40 0.01 25.79
2001 311.85 206.09 25.71 15.47 137.30 217.22 35.29 0.01 25.80
2002 280.79 196.19 22.35 13.49 132.81 211.83 34.80 0.01 23.61
2003 259.72 188.03 21.97 12.77 116.82 188.12 34.12 0.01 22.06
2004 245.07 182.70 21.33 12.63 101.07 170.82 35.04 0.01 20.93
2005 227.90 180.66 20.27 12.83 90.37 174.12 34.67 0.01 19.30
2006 216.37 183.83 20.02 12.63 98.01 169.74 33.40 0.01 17.13
2007 201.13 174.61 19.00 11.99 81.61 168.76 33.59 0.01 15.81
2008 196.88 159.05 17.07 10.98 71.26 160.80 31.44 0.01 15.89
2009 166.41 140.13 15.88 10.26 69.93 143.07 31.68 0.01 14.80
2010 160.20 138.30 17.38 10.89 83.10 140.62 32.32 0.01 14.99
2011 145.20 122.56 15.54 9.61 63.06 137.94 31.47 0.01 14.30
2012 136.74 121.31 14.71 9.49 62.13 142.53 31.31 0.01 14.02
2013 131.39 116.14 14.93 9.25 46.62 138.95 30.68 0.01 13.99
2014 121.83 112.02 14.51 8.82 35.55 139.57 32.23 0.01 12.97
2015 120.18 107.84 13.98 8.66 28.18 143.74 32.50 0.01 13.11
2016 114.51 96.23 14.16 8.60 19.08 145.38 33.13 0.01 12.96
2017 112.84 95.77 14.54 8.56 15.87 145.32 32.10 0.01 12.91
2018 113.08 89.77 14.27 8.63 14.77 147.81 31.52 0.01 12.88
2019 112.68 84.54 14.22 8.56 13.80 147.69 31.42 0.01 12.55

This indicator gives trends in annual emissions of the eight main air pollutants in Scotland: NH3 (ammonia), CO (carbon monoxide), NOx (nitrogen oxides), NMVOCs (non-methane volatile organic compounds), PM10 (particulates smaller than 10 microns), PM2.5 (particulates smaller than 2.5 microns), SO2 (sulphur dioxide) and Pb (lead). Emissions are reported in kilotonnes (kt).

Statutory targets limiting annual emissions of each pollutant at the UK level are stated in the National Emission Ceilings Directive Regulations 2018.

Source: The data on air pollutant emissions is published in an annual report Air Pollutant Inventories for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Please note that the most recent report, published in September 2021, provided data for 2005 to 2019. The data for 1990 to 2004 is taken from the previous report published in October 2020.

Update Frequency: Annual.

Further Information: Air quality indicator information is available from SEPA.




Freshwater condition

Indicator Updated: 16 December 2021

Percentage of Freshwater Bodies at Good or better ecological status/potential
Year Water Quality Water resources (flows and levels) Access for fish migration Physical Condition
2016 80.3 87.0 87.0 88.7
2017 81.1 87.4 87.4 88.8
2018 82.9 87.4 86.9 88.8
2019 83.9 87.3 88.0 88.3

Targets for achieving Good or better ecological status are set through the statutory River Basin Management Plans process.

Source: The data for this indicator is provided annually by SEPA derived from their Water Classification Hub.

Update Frequency: Annual

Further Information: Freshwater condition indicator information is available from SEPA.




Marine environmental quality

There are four indicators concerning marine environmental quality.

(i) Clean seas

Indicator Updated: 04 November 2021

Year % of acceptable regions (%)
2015 90
2016 90
2017 93
2018 93
2019 93

This National Performance Framework indicator reports the percentage of biogeographical regions with acceptably low levels of chemical contaminants. This is assessed by considering the extent to which levels of metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are sufficiently low that they are unlikely to cause adverse effects in marine organisms in Scottish waters.

The Indicator is calculated by assessing the concentrations of cadmium, lead, mercury, PAHs and PCBs in biota (fish and shellfish) and sediment in three regions: the Northern North Sea, Minches and Western Scotland, and Irish Sea (Clyde & Solway).

Source: Assessments of the data are made by the UK Clean Safe Seas Evidence Group (CSSEG). Data from the most recent clean seas assessment can be found here.

Update Frequency: Annual

Further Information: Clean seas metric information is available on the National Performance Framework website.

(ii) Beach litter

Indicator Updated: 04 November 2021

Coast Items of litter per 100m of beach) (-)
Clyde 670
Orkney 40
Moray Firth 320
East Coast (North) 250
Firth of Forth (Beaches) 300
Firth of Forth (Harbours) 1600

This metric reports the number of litter items per 100 metres of beach surveyed in six coastal areas of Scotland. Results are presented for the regions Clyde, Orkney, Moray Firth, East Coast (North), Forth and Forth (harbours) and by category of item.

A range of pilot Performance Indicators are proposed which aim to allow the Scottish Government to monitor the state of litter on its beaches, as well as judge the success of its policies in reducing sources of marine plastics and litter. The pilot Scottish Beach Litter Performance Indicators (SBLPIs) utilise the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Beachwatch citizen-science foreshore surveys (Marine Conservation Society, 2018). These surveys use a standard method, agreed with OSPAR, to count all the visible pieces of plastic and non-plastic litter on a beach and to put these into one of 118 different categories.

Source: Marine Scotland

Update Frequency: Current data is estimated over the 10 year period from 2008 to 2017. Results will be updated every six years.

Further Information: Beach litter metric information is available from Marine Scotland.

(iii) Plastic litter ingested by seabirds

Indicator Updated: 04 November 2021

Year % of birds exceeding digested plastic limit (%)
2007-2011 63
2012-1016 56

This metric reports the percentage of fulmars, a species of seabird, exceeding a level of 0.1g of plastic in their stomachs. OSPAR is the mechanism by which 15 Governments and the EU cooperate to protect the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic. OSPAR examines the stomachs of fulmar corpses found on beaches in 5 North Sea areas.

Source: OSPAR

Update Frequency: The metric is updated every six years.

Further Information: Plastic litter ingested by seabirds metric information is available from OSPAR.

(iv) Predicted disturbance to seafloor habitats

Indicator Updated: 04 November 2021

Scottish marine regions

% of region in each disturbance category (%)
Percentage Scottish Marine Region Percentage No predicted disturbance Percentage Low disturbance Percentage High disturbance
Solway 12 66 22
Clyde 8 26 65
Argyll 20 36 44
West Highlands 8 27 65
Outer Hebrides 36 31 33
North Coast 5 46 49
Orkney Islands 10 48 41
Shetland Isles 4 16 80
Moray Firth 9 34 57
North East 5 44 51
Forth and Tay 13 39 48

Scottish offshore marine regions

% of region in each disturbance category (%)
Percentage Scottish Offshore Marine Region Percentage No predicted disturbance Percentage Low disturbance Percentage High disturbance
Hatton 98 0 1
Rockall 61 3 36
Bailey 87 1 11
Hebrides Shelf 23 37 40
North Scotland Shelf 8 28 64
Faroe Shetland Channel 89 1 10
North and West Shetland Shelf 2 8 89
East Shetland Shelf 0 5 95
Fladen and Moray Firth Offshore 0 14 86
Long Forties 4 59 36

This metric reports the predicted extent of physical damage to seafloor habitats due to towed bottom-contact fishing activities, based on modelling of fishing vessels in different areas.

The metric categorises disturbance at the seabed from 0 (none) to 9 (very high). Categories 5 to 9 represent higher levels of disturbance. Areas with a score of 5 and above are considered highly disturbed and, therefore, potentially in poor condition. The proportion of seafloor assessed as being in these categories is provided for each of the 11 SMR (Scottish Marine Region) areas and 10 OMR (Offshore Marine Region) areas.

Data on pressures resulting from human activities and information on sensitivity of habitats are the main components of this indicator. The duration and intensity of the activity, and the physical interaction between the activity and the seabed, are used to define the nature of the pressure assessed in this indicator. The specific combination of pressure and habitat sensitivity is used to establish the overall impact (disturbance) on the habitat.

The degree of disturbance of a habitat is a prediction based on the predicted spatial and temporal overlap of its sensitivity and exposure to a specific pressure. Sensitivity and pressure are combined via a matrix, producing 10 categories of disturbance (0-9, where 0 is no disturbance, and 9 is the greatest amount of disturbance possible). The matrix is used to calculate the disturbance per cell for each surface and subsurface abrasion per year.

The disturbance categories are further aggregated into two groups:

  • disturbance categories 0 to 4, representing low levels of disturbance.

  • disturbance categories 5 to 9, representing high levels of disturbance.

Source: Marine Scotland

Update Frequency: The metric is updated every six years.

Further Information: Disturbance to seafloor habitats metric information is available from Marine Scotland.




Soil health

Options for undertaking additional work to identify strategic indicators of soil health are being explored.