Following on from the groundbreaking State of Nature report in 2013, leading professionals from 53 wildlife organisations have pooled expertise and knowledge to present the clearest picture to date of the status of our native species across land and sea. The report reveals that over half (56 per cent) of UK species studied have declined since 1970, while 15 per cent (1,199 of the nearly 8,000 species assessed in the UK) are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.
Harry Barton, chief executive of Devon Wildlife Trust, said: “This report provides the most detailed picture of the state of our wildlife ever. There are some successes to be proud of here in Devon, beavers, otters and little egrets among them, but overall the tide continues to move rapidly in the wrong direction. More than half the world’s wildlife has disappeared since 1970. It is still within our gift to turn this around and recover much of that loss. But if we want to avoid a similar disastrous decline over the next generation, all of us are going to have to do much more, think a lot more radically, and be far braver.”
There are many inspiring examples of conservation action that is helping to turn the tide. From pioneering science that has revealed for the first time the reasons why nature is changing in the UK, to conservation work – such as the recovery of the cirl bunting in Devon, and its reintroduction to Cornwall, the return of beavers to Devon for the first time in centuries, and the reintroduction of cranes in Somerset and the large blue butterfly, also in Somerset – and the restoration of areas of our uplands, meadows and coastal habitats. But more is needed to put nature back where it belongs.
Alex Raeder, of the National Trust in the South West, said: “This report is wake up call to everybody who loves nature and values the natural environment. We cannot sit on our hands and let our natural heritage slip away. Whilst some of our most important sites remain in reasonable condition it is clear that in the wider countryside, where most of us live, wildlife that was once common is being lost. We must create opportunities to bring the South West’s birds, bees, butterflies and flowers back to our countryside, by working in partnership to create landscapes rich in nature.”
Nick Bruce-White, regional director of the RSPB in the South West, said: “Whilst the State of Nature report clearly shows the challenges we face in terms of winning the war on biodiversity loss, where we are working together to exert sustained effort we are winning battles.
“The recovery of the cirl bunting, a small, colourful farmland bird, which suffered catastrophic decline in the Twentieth Century because of changes to agriculture, is a great example of this, an example of ‘total conservation’: a problem was identified; solutions trialled and developed using sound science; an urgency to address the problem was established; and commitment was shown – from farmers, government agencies, conservationists, businesses and communities – to take action. We need to use this State of Nature report as a warning siren and take action now, before we lose all hope of passing on a healthier natural environment to the next generation.”
Andrew Whitehouse, South West manager at Buglife said: “Cornwall and Devon support incredible wildlife riches, but the counties are not immune from the pressures that have affected our wildlife elsewhere. Our South West Bees Project has shown that many of our bee species are struggling to survive in an increasingly degraded countryside. But there are some good news stories, Devon and Cornwall are national hotspots for oil beetles which can be seen around our coast in the spring, and there is enormous potential to help our wildlife recover.”
Liam Creedon, of Butterfly Conservation, said: “The wild and windswept expanses of Exmoor and Dartmoor are not only amongst the most evocative places in the UK but they are also strongholds to some of our rarest butterflies. Butterfly Conservation’s Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project is improving habitat for the marsh fritillary, high brown fritillary and heath fritillary on these moors, to help restore and reconnect suitable habitat to provide sustainable populations for the future.”
Dr Trevor Dines, of Plantlife, said: “An ancient wildflower meadow can be destroyed within a single morning and this quiet catastrophe has befallen more than 97 per cent of our wildflower meadows and grasslands since the Second World War. Where there were once flowers at our feet there is now a factory floor, little more than green concrete. Ask any member of the public and I bet they’d want more of a balance, wildlife and production, not one instead of the other. For all the doom and gloom of these shocking statistics, our wildlife is resilient. If we provide plants and animals with the right conditions they will come back from the brink, we just have to give them a chance.”
As the UK Government and devolved administrations move forward in the light of the EU Referendum result, there is an opportunity to secure world leading protection for our species and restoration of our nature. Now is the time to make ambitious decisions and significant investment in nature to ensure year-on-year improvement to the health and protection of the UK’s nature and environment for future generations.
The State of Nature 2016 UK report will be launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation and research organisations at the Royal Society in London this morning [Wednesday, September 14], while separate events will be held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast over the next week.
Sir David Attenborough said: “The future of nature is under threat and we must work together; Governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”
In order to reduce the impact we are having on our wildlife, and to help struggling species, we needed to understand what’s causing these declines. Using evidence from the last 50 years, experts have identified that significant and ongoing changes in agricultural practices are having the single biggest impact on nature.
The widespread decline of nature in the UK remains a serious problem to this day. For the first time scientists have uncovered how wildlife has fared in recent years. The report reveals that since 2002 more than half (53 per cent) of UK species studied have declined and there is little evidence to suggest that the rate of loss is slowing down.
For a full copy of the State of Nature 2016 report and to find out how you can do your bit to save UK wildlife – www.rspb.org.uk/son