What are Indicators and what will they tell us about the UKGAP?

Performance Indicators are often used to measure how successful activities are at working towards meeting an organisation's aims.

Sea arch at Flamborough Head. © Jonathan Larwood, NE

Sea arch at Flamborough Head. © Jonathan Larwood, NE

National Governments in the UK use indicators to assess the contributions being made to meet various national outcomes and strategic targets, and at a local level indicators are also used to encourage good management practices. For the UK Geodiversity Action Plan, indicators will be used as a mechanism for monitoring and measuring the progress being made under the six UKGAP themes.

Existing national targets and indicators for monitoring geodiversity activity in the UK are currently very limited. Therefore a set of bespoke indicators has been developed for the UKGAP.

For the indicators to be useful year after year (so that plausible trends in information can develop), the indicators typically look to use or modify existing monitoring tools and datasets, or establish reasonably straightforward new monitoring techniques so that the data are easily accessible to those people responsible for the annual indicator reporting.

Each indicator aims to provide a result based on absolute numbers, for example:

  • the total number of sites where; or
  • the total number of people who; or
  • the total number of policies which etc.

Taking this approach allows the annual results to be presented in a simple format. It will reveal clear trends of how progress is improving over time under each UKGAP theme, thereby demonstrating how the activities of a wide variety of organisations are supporting the UK's geodiversity.

The UKGAP objectives can be grouped under six key areas of geodiversity activity - the themes. Specifically, the objectives provide a framework for focusing on-the-ground action under each of these key themes. As some of the monitoring indicators are cross-cutting (relating to achievements under more than one objective within a theme) it would not be appropriate to directly assign them to individual objectives. Thus, indicators monitor the progress that is being made towards the major themes of the UKGAP to enable simple and clear annual reporting of the monitoring results. It is hoped that through contributions to the website a wealth of qualitative information about progress towards objectives will be gained; showcasing good practice and allowing recognition of individual organisations.

The UK Geodiversity Action Plan Indicators

1. Recognition within research

The number of refereed research papers relating to UK geodiversity.

A positive trend for this indicator will show recognition and enthusiasm for UK geodiversity within the academic research community and higher education system. Less encouraging results might raise concerns about how our geodiversity is being considered, as pressures increase on our environment and our way of life.

2. Local policy recognition

The number of statutory Development Plans in which geodiversity issues (and issues relevant to similar disciplines) are formally recognised.

Encouraging results at a local level would suggest there is success regarding recognition of geodiversity at higher levels within the planning system and that the policy hierarchy system is working effectively in translating planning requirements.

3. Organisational policy recognition

The number of organisations with a specific geodiversity policy or where geodiversity is recognised within other corporate plans or action plans.

The results from this indicator would show the extent to which individual organisations are making formal commitments to the consideration of geodiversity within their work and could be considered as evidence that planning policy and good practice guidance is being adopted.

4. Geodiversity gain at development sites and restored mineral sites

The total number of sites where geodiversity has been recognised within the design.

This may include, for example: retention of an exposed quarry face, an interpretation board or artwork that links to the surrounding landscape. This indicator will demonstrate the extent to which development organisations are contributing to on-the-ground action for geodiversity and will help to demonstrate the consideration of geodiversity in the wider environment as well as at designated sites.

5. National policy recognition

The number of national-level policy statements, plans and strategies, in which geodiversity issues (and issues relevant to similar disciplines) are formally recognised.

Success at a national level reflects greater support for geodiversity from national government.

6. Regional policy recognition

The number of regional-scale policy documents, plans and strategies, in which geodiversity issues (and issues relevant to similar disciplines) are formally recognised.

Recognition in regional scale documents and strategy reflects both transfer of national policy and a greater regional acceptance of the importance of geodiversity.

7. Geodiversity Mapping

The total number of published geological maps at 1:50 000 scale which have been revised (either completely or partially re-surveyed; refitted 1" to 1:50 000 topographic base map; or, where elements have been modelled into a 3-dimensional format).

This indicator is a measure of the effort and investment put into furthering geological knowledge. Negative results could encourage greater investment and funding to further improve the geological knowledge base.

8. Geological collections

The total number of geodiversity collections available to view by Geoscientists and the public.

Geological collections provide a support to formal education and life-long learning about Earth Science. Collections might include rock, mineral and fossil specimens, building stones, historical mapping and literature, borehole logs and photographs. The continued understanding which can be gained from these materials, about geological processes, products and sites, might be lost if the indicator reveals that collections are not being maintained and made accessible for people to use and learn from. A negative trend for this indicator might help to encourage wider promotion and support for these collections.

9. Designation and protection of Local Geological Sites

The total number of Local Geological Sites formally designated and therefore recognised by local planning authorities as a material consideration to be taken into account in planning decisions.

Local designation, including the uploading data to a Local Records Centre, enables sites to become of material consideration in planning decisions. A negative trend could indicate physical loss of significant sites or insufficient maintenance of records. A static trend might indicate a hiatus in designation activities due to lack of resources or through achieving sufficient coverage. A positive trend for numbers of local designations would indicate that conditions are increasingly ideal for the successful conservation and management of geodiversity overall and that geodiversity that exists in sites designated for other environmental or heritage features is also more likely to be appropriately managed.

10. Condition of geological and geomorphological SSSIs/ASSSIs

The total number of SSSIs/ASSIs designated for their geological or geomorphological features and/or active processes, where the majority (or all) of the site is in 'favourable' condition (Scotland and Wales) or 'favourable'/'favourable recovering' condition (England and Northern Ireland).

An increasing trend for sites in 'favourable condition' is an indicator of successful conservation management planning and practices. A decreasing trend would be evidence that threats and pressures on site are not being appropriately managed.

11. Positive conservation management at Local Geological Sites

The total number of Local Geological Sites in the local authority area in positive conservation management.

The National Indicators for Local Authorities in England includes NI 197 'Improved Local Biodiversity - proportion of Local Sites where positive conservation management has been or is being implemented" (now replaced by the Single Data List, ref 160), whilst not explicit in the title, includes management at Local Geological Sites. Whilst the data is currently only collected within England, it is anticipated that similar data is held in local record centres or with the local planning authorities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and local authorities in these countries could still make use of the indicator in their best value performance measures. This indicator complements the local designations indicator by assessing the number of such designated sites where positive conservation management is taking place. Together, these indicators provide a more complete picture of local site conservation.

12. Visits to sites of geodiversity interest

The total number of people visiting a selection of geodiversity places within each of the four countries.

Reporting on the popularity of places throughout the UK with a specific geodiversity interest, reveals the inherent value placed on geodiversity by society, including various cultural, social and health benefits. This indicator is also linked to promoting geodiversity through interpretive materials and formal learning opportunities, which are enhanced by outdoor activities and opportunities.

13. Recognition within formal education

The total number of students sitting Geology GCSE (England, Northern Ireland, Wales) or Geology SG (Scotland) examinations.

Positive trends would indicate that there is encouragement and enthusiasm for geological sciences within education. A negative trend might be as a result of a fall off in appropriately experienced educators, finances, curriculum changes and/or enthusiasm of pupils in taking these elective courses.

14. Voluntary involvement

The total number of people actively involved in geodiversity initiatives within LGAP partnerships and voluntary geoconservation groups.

The trends observed would give an indication of the popularity, public interest and publicity of geodiversity; and could highlight the scope and resources available for completing other geodiversity actions such as contributing to the management of local sites and increasing the number of visitors to the outdoors.

15. Funding used for geodiversity action planning

Total funds devoted to geodiversity action planning from a selection of national funding organisations.

This indicator will directly identify the financial support available for geodiversity action planning at a national level.

16. Active GAPs in operation

The number of GAPs that completed an annual progress report, identifying the actions completed or progressed and which targets and/or objectives were met.

By looking at the completion of annual reporting on GAPs rather than solely how many exist, this indicator aims to capture information on action that is being sustained - a progress report demonstrates that a GAP is active which implies that financial and people support has been in place.

17. Awareness of the UKGAP

The number of visitors to the UKGAP website.

The number of visitors to the UKGAP website will be used as a proxy for the number of people aware of the UKGAP.