Biodiversity Guidance For Public Bodies

Published on 23 November 2009 in Ecosystems and biodiversity

Bluebell wood


The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 places a duty on Scottish public bodies, requiring them to further the conservation of biodiversity through the exercise of their functions. 

Some generic information and guidance exists, but the extent of this guidance is unclear and its collation within a single location for ease of access and use has not occurred.

A need has been identified to assist public bodies in their task of protecting and enhancing biodiversity.

The objective of the project is to perform a scoping study to investigate the case for an interactive web based system providing an information source for public bodies on practical measures for promotion of biodiversity.

More specifically to:

  • Identify a generic range of public body functions (e.g. grounds management activities, facilities management activities, procurement, planning and development control responsibilities etc);
  • Identify with stakeholders the information and guidance needs of each function with respect to the biodiversity duty stemming from national legislation (e.g. the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act);
  • Identify existing biodiversity guidance for and produced by public bodies (or other sectors, where appropriate or applicable) and assess, its applicability to public body functions, including best practice to support local and regional biodiversity;
  • Identify gaps in existing guidance for public bodies with respect to delivery of the new biodiversity duty.
  • Provide costed options for an internet-based tool that would allow public bodies to access this information and guidance.

Key Points

There are no central or regional repositories of biodiversity guidance and their relationship to the functions of public bodies and the delivery of the biodiversity duty. Two key findings were derived from the project:

  • 88% of public body representatives that responded to the survey agree that there is the need for a centralised portal to access biodiversity guidance;
  • 47% of respondents did not feel there was sufficient biodiversity guidance to support them in fulfilling their biodiversity duty.

Public sector organisations that do not see delivery of the biodiversity duty as an important part of their day to day activity need specific targeted guidance. It is therefore important, that any proposed biodiversity guidance provision tries to address this area of the public sector as well as those areas currently initiating delivery.

The full report includes detailed breakdown of the specific findings and includes case studies of some guidance available.

Research Undertaken

The methodology adopted to achieve the aim and objectives of this project included use of the following activities;

  • Steering Group meetings
  • Workshop
  • Questionnaire
  • Desk based literature review

The initial stages involved identifying the key legislation drivers and policy documents that have steered biodiversity guidance development to date. A generic range of public body functions were also identified along with a list of key guidance documents deriving from statutory and non-statutory sources.

This information was used to conduct a preliminary gap analysis that aimed to identify the key issues public body office bearers face. A consultation exercise was conducted that used the generic public body functions and the preliminary gap analysis to inform the preparation of a questionnaire. The questionnaire was hosted on-line.
The results of the questionnaire were used to undertake a simple gap analysis. The gap analysis aimed to identify strengths and weaknesses that public bodies may encounter. A selection of guidance documents was then compared to generic public body functions. This process was cross-referenced with the gap analysis and used to illustrate examples of the biodiversity guidance needs of specific public body functions.

A comprehensive review of existing internet tools was undertaken through a wide ranging consultation. This information has been collated and costed options for an internet biodiversity guidance tool have been provided.

Policy Implications

It is recommended that the development of a web-based tool such as a portal for biodiversity guidance would successfully address a number of current gaps in relation to biodiversity guidance provision. There are a number of projects currently being undertaken by national and UK bodies that will assist in developing the web-based portal. It is suggested that the conclusions and lessons learned from these various projects are considered when further developing the portal for biodiversity guidance.

It is recommended that a strong sustainable partnership capable of funding development and long term updating and maintenance is considered at an early stage. It is envisaged that the biodiversity portal would be an evolving system where access to biodiversity guidance is updated and improved as new information, projects or approaches become available. A strong partnership would be required to manage this system and ensure its position as an exemplar system of biodiversity guidance provision.

SNIFFER is coordinating efforts with the project partners to gain further support for the development of a web-based portal and associated actions that will fulfil the recommendations outlined above.  The full report, 'Scoping Study For Public Body Biodiversity Guidance', is available from the SNIFFER website.


Ruth Wolstenholme


Ecosystems and biodiversity

Comments or Questions

Log in or register to add comments