Turtle dove, hedgehog, harbour seal, early bumblebee, small tortoiseshell butterfly, natterjack toad (c) NaturePL / Photoshot / RSPB / Butterfly Conservation

Picture: BBC

A major report on the ‘State of Nature’ in the UK is launched today by Sir David Attenborough. It makes grim reading. 25 of the nation’s top nature bodies have got together and reviewed a wide range of information on how different species have fared over the last decades. They’ve found that 60% of the species studied are in ‘long term decline’ and, perhaps even more worrying, 1 in 10 are on the ‘endangered’ list. Once common critters like hedgehogs are now in serious danger – they have declined by around a third since 2000.

The report, hailed as a ‘wake up call’ to conservation policy and practice in the UK, says that current approaches are not halting these declines. The data – collected by dedicated volunteer enthusiasts through many surveys – are impressive, but they only cover 5% of the UK’s estimated 59,000 native species.

One of the report authors, Dr Mark Eaton of the RSPB, said: “These declines are happening across all countries and UK Overseas Territories, habitats and species groups, although it is probably greatest amongst insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles. Other once common species like the kittiwakes, Scottish wildcat and arable wildflowers are vanishing before our eyes”.

The elusive Corncrake is one of the bird species which the report cites as a positive example of what can be achieved by conservation projects. In Scotland, schemes which support changes in the timing and methods of mowing hay and silage during the breeding season are said to have secured a three-fold increase in the number of singing males.

The ‘State of Nature’ report offers clues to the fate of the UK’s 59,000 species. Some of the species seeing the largest falls in numbers are turtle doves, water voles, red squirrels and hedgehogs.The reasons for the decline are said to be “many and varied” but include rising temperatures and habitat degradation through development or agricultural practices such as pesticide use. Species requiring specific habitats have fared particularly poorly compared to the ‘generalists’ who are able to adapt to the country’s changing environment more easily.

“This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate,”

said Sir David Attenborough. He commented in a radio interview today –  ‘There is no single answer – what we have to do varies from species to species.” He points to the many expert organisations that can advise on how to provide or encourage habitat creation; e.g. the Wildlife Trusts network plus a number of specialist bodies for particular species.

Whilst small-scale action to create or conserve habitats – by gardeners for example – can help, the scale and continuing trend of decline is bound to raise questions about Government policy on biodiversity and the case for even more large-scale action to create/recreate/ conserve habitats. ‘Rewilding’ is the term applied to large-scale conservation aimed at restoring and protecting core wilderness areas, connecting these areas, and protecting or reintroducing key species. Such projects may require ecological restoration, particularly to restore connectivity between protected but fragmented areas, and reintroduction of predators. It is a conservation method based on “cores, corridors, and carnivores.”


BBC report on ‘State of Nature’

Rewilding Europe

Rewilding our children – article by George Monbiot

Other relevant articles:

Four Seasons in One Day (1): Climate change and the garden

The Lost Fens

Moths- unsung victim of climate change and habitat loss

Mistle Thrush missing…Big Garden Watch this weekend

Winners and losers in latest butterfly survey- 7 tips for gardeners

Old School Gardener

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and others on this blog, why not comment and also join some other people and sign up for automatic updates via email (see side bar, above right ) or through an RSS feed (see top of page)?