The overall objective of the programme is to ensure that wildlife and countryside policies are based on the best scientific evidence available. The programme contributes to the achievement of several of Defra's overarching science strategy objectives, including:
- To undertake surveys and analysis to improve knowledge of the requirements and ecological functions of key elements of biodiversity (including both species and key habitats, e.g. farmland birds, SSSIs) and the factors contributing to their unfavourable conservation status.
- To create the evidence base necessary to manage problems of invasive species, vertebrate pests (including escapees into the wild) and wildlife vectors of disease.
- To develop the tools to help us to enable society to make policy decisions and take actions to optimise biodiversity locally and globally, including the ecosystems approach, valuation, risk assessment, information systems, forecasting and decision support, and regulation of the trade in endangered species.
- To improve the evidence base for rational decision-making about the management of resources and the use of marine protected areas.
The use of science, including social science, is essential to develop and implement effective policies to conserve and enhance wildlife and promote enjoyment of the countryside. Scientific evidence is required for:
- the current status and trends in biodiversity;
- understanding the reasons for unfavourable status and decline in biodiversity, assessing vulnerability and identifying effective remedial measures;
- the identification of special marine sites for protection;
- understanding and assessing values of biodiversity and landscape character;
- social and environmental impacts of access to the countryside;
- human health and wellbeing through countryside recreation.
There are also a number of essential cross-cutting areas in which we need greater knowledge and understanding to underpin longer term policy development, especially the effects of climate change; the ecosystem approach to resource management; the use of new technologies to improve our operations; and the provision of information in accessible forms for the user.