No let-up in net loss of UK's nature

The UK’s wildlife continues to decline according to the State of Nature 2019 report. The latest findings show that since rigorous scientific monitoring began in the 1970s there has been a 13% decline in average abundance across wildlife studied and that the declines continue unabated.

The UK’s wildlife continues to decline according to the State of Nature 2019 report. The latest findings show that since rigorous scientific monitoring began in the 1970's there has been a 13% decline in average abundance across wildlife studied and that the declines continue unabated.

Following the State of Nature reports in 2013 and 2016, leading professionals from more than 70 wildlife organisations have joined with government agencies for the first time, to present the clearest picture to date of the status of our species across land and sea.

The loss of nature and threats to our wildlife are no longer restricted to the exotic... we can now add turtle dove, nightingale, bumblebees and even hedgehogs.
Paul Hadaway, Director of Conservation
Kent Wildlife Trust

The State of Nature 2019 report also reveals that 41% of UK species studied have declined, 26% have increased and 33% shown little change since 1970, while 133 species assessed have already been lost from our shores since 1500.  

Butterflies and moths have been particularly hard hit with numbers of butterflies down by 17% and moths down by 25%. The numbers of species, such as the High Brown Fritillary and Grayling, that require more specialised habitats, have declined by more than three quarters. The UK’s mammals also fare badly with greater than 26% of species at risk of disappearing altogether.

State of Nature report 2019

The Wild Cat and Greater Mouse-eared Bat are among those species teetering on the edge of disappearing.

Much is known about the causes of decline and about some of the ways in which we could reduce impacts and help struggling species. The evidence from the last 50 years shows that significant and ongoing changes in the way we manage our land for agriculture, and the ongoing effects of climate change are having the biggest impacts on nature.

Pollution is also a major issue. Whilst emissions of many pollutants have been reduced dramatically in recent decades, pollution continues to have a severe impact on the UK’s sensitive habitats and freshwaters, and new pollutant threats are continuing to emerge.

Paul Hadaway, Director of Conservation at Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “The loss of nature and threats to our wildlife are no longer restricted to the exotic, to tigers, snow leopards or blue whales. To that list, we can now add turtle dove, nightingale, bumblebees and even hedgehogs. These declines and the lack of action from our Government to address them is very worrying as we commit future generations to a world devoid of the natural wonders we once experienced.

If that is not enough the weight of evidence clearly shows that we are destroying the very natural systems which support our lives. The declaration of a climate and environment emergency at both national, county and district levels recognises this. However, without agreed actions, adequately supported and funded this is not sufficient on its own. In Kent we are offering these actions, advocating for the restoration of wildlife in our landscapes, to recognise and support the role our natural world can play in addressing climate change, protecting coastal and marine habitats which can  absorb 40% more carbon than a rainforest, replacing missing species such as pine marten and beaver which play an enormous role as natural engineers and supporting our young people as they fight for a childhood as rich in wildlife as the one we once enjoyed.”

Evan Bowen-Jones, Chief Executive at Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “The State of Nature 2019, once more, evidences the severity of the long-term decline in our wildlife, and how little decision-makers have done to reverse this. Investing 0.022% of GDP in the nature that underpins our very survival is deeply concerning, as is continuing to funding schemes that damage this already depleted resource. Whilst some might not care about the loss of iconic species like hedgehogs, everyone should worry about the loss of insect pollinators on which 30% of our food depends. We need to invest in protecting and restoring large-scale natural habitats: to increase wildlife, lock up carbon, and secure people’s livelihoods, to counter the climate and environment emergency we now face.”

The State of Nature 2019, once more, evidences the severity of the long-term decline in our wildlife, and how little decision-makers have done to reverse this.
Evan Bowen-Jones. Chief Executive
Kent Wildlife Trust

Daniel Hayhow, lead author on the report, said: “We know more about the UK’s wildlife than any other country on the planet, and what it is telling us should make us sit up and listen. We need to respond more urgently across the board if we are to put nature back where it belongs. Governments, conservation groups and individuals must continue to work together to help restore our land and sea for wildlife and people in a way that is both ambitious and inspiring for future generations”

“In this report we have drawn on the best available data on the UK’s biodiversity, produced by partnerships between conservation NGOs, research institutes, UK and national governments, and thousands of dedicated volunteers. It’s through working together that we can help nature recover but the battle must intensify.”

Whilst the data that the report shows are alarming there is also cause for some cautious hope. The report showcases a wide range of exciting conservation initiatives, with partnerships delivering inspiring results for some of the UK’s nature. Species such as Bitterns and Large Blue Butterfly have been saved through the concerted efforts of organisations and individuals.
Reflecting growing concern about the environmental and climate emergencies, public support for conservation also continues to grow, with NGO expenditure up by 26% since 2010/11 and time donated by volunteers having increased by 40% since 2000. However, public sector expenditure on biodiversity in the UK, as a proportion of GDP, has fallen by 42% since a peak in 2008/09.

Nikki Williams, Director of Campaigns and Policy at The Wildlife Trusts, said “Nature is in big trouble but we know how to bring it back. Local action is already making a real difference and now the government needs to play its part. We need a Nature Recovery Network established in law – one that is locally developed and nationally connected – this would help join up our last remaining wild places by creating vital new habitats. It’s time to make nature a normal part of childhood again and restore wildlife so it can recover and thrive across urban jungles and the countryside once more – where it can be part of people’s daily lives.”

The report has a foreword by a collective of young conservationists who are passionate about conservation and the future of our wildlife and nature to preserve it for future generations.

Dan Rouse, a young conservationist said, “Nature is something that shaped my childhood, that allowed me to be free to use my sense of wonder, and to gain an insight into the wonderful world of nature! It's young people that are now picking up the baton to save our nature - we've already lost Corn Buntings and Nightingales in Wales - how long until they're gone from the rest of the UK? Along with the eerie calls of curlew and the gentle purr of the turtle doves.”

Sophie Pavelle, a young conservationist said “What a huge wake-up call 2019 has been! I have felt the loss of nature more acutely this year than any other. A dawn chorus less deafening, hedgerows less frantic, bizarre, worrying weather…it seems that in a more complex world nature is tired, muted and confused. People protect what they love, and if we can find quirky, empowering ways to encourage young people to connect with nature emotionally and see it as something they can truly champion - only then can we dig deep to find real hope for a brighter, sustained future for our natural world.”

State of Nature report 2019

Click below for a copy of the State of Nature 2019 report

and to find out how you can do your bit to save UK wildlife...

State of Nature 2019