The State of Nature: new report shows most UK species in decline


The report reveals just how terrifyingly steep the declines are for some species, such as the small tortoiseshell butterfly.

Martin Harper, the RSPB's Conservation Director tells us why the launch of a new report should be a serious wake up call for all of us - a call that we simply can't ignore.......

Today is a big day.

For the first time, all the UK wildlife organisations have joined forces to compile a health check of nature in the UK and its overseas territories. This evening Sir David Attenborough will help us launch a new State of Nature report. We expect it will serve as a wake-up call to all of us to do more to help us live in harmony with nature.

The report comes in my favourite month of May. A time to reflect on the wonder of those birds that have migrated from Africa to breed here - species such as swift and swallows - a time to take pleasure in seeing our woodlands carpeted with bluebells and to enjoy seeing butterflies again after the long, dark days of winter. But there are real fears that the things we take for granted may not be part of our children's lives when they grow up.

In my lifetime, once common species like the turtle dove has declined by more than 90%. Cuckoos down by 73% and nightingales down by nearly 50%. And my former employers, Plantlife, have shown that we are losing, on average, one plant every year from counties in England.

In preparing State of Nature, we have used new and innovative analyses include trend assessments for over 3000 species, and red-list assessments of over 6000 species; mostly derived from data collected by the UK's army of dedicated and skilled volunteer naturalists. Our analyses conclude that 60% of the species for which data are available have declined over recent decades; 31% strongly so. Nature is in flux. Over one in ten of the species assessed are threatened with extinction in the UK.

Understanding the state of the natural world is the foundation for nature conservation. We need to know what's in trouble and what progress we have made. This report reinforces the conclusions reached in 2010: that nature is continuing to decline, the pressures on the natural world are growing, and our response to the biodiversity crisis is slowing.

We know that we all need to do more to inspire moral, political and practical support for nature conservation.

And this is why, following the publication of the report we shall challenge all sectors of society to do more for nature.

  • Politicians that have repeatedly committed to recovering threatened wildlife populations need to think about the natural world when they make big decisions about where to cut and where to invest.
  • Developers need to respect and protect the special places that people love.
  • Landowners should manage their land with wildlife in mind.
  • Businesses must find ways to make a profit without trashing the environment.
  • And all of us can do our bit by taking action for wildlife in our gardens and in our communities.

We are not claiming to have all the answers but we're determined to do much more. We hope that the report, produced in this time of austerity, stimulates a public debate about what else we need to do to live in harmony with nature.

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Conservation Director and blogs about all the big conservation topics. This article originally appeared in his blog post which you can read here. Thank you to the RSPB for granting the Ecologist permission to republish this important piece.

To read more on this, including the full State of Nature report, click here.



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