State of Nature report warns of ‘devastating loss’
Compiled by leading professionals from over 60 research and conservation organisations, the 2023 State of Nature report reveals that UK nature is in crisis, with one in six species at risk of becoming extinct, whilst traditionally common animals and plants such as starlings, swifts, hedgehogs and chamomile are becoming rarer, and the loss of insects, fish and flora are impacting the food chain for other animals.
The report shows that the abundance of land and freshwater species has on average fallen by almost a third (32%) across England since 1970. Overall, the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries globally due to human activity, with less than half of its biodiversity remaining.
Looking at evidence going back more than 50 years, whilst monitoring todays populations and threats and identifying patterns, conservationists have seen worrying declines in numbers across even common species.
European eel, lady's slipper orchid, turtle dove and hazel dormouse are all now threatened with extinction in the UK, with another almost 1500 species at risk of UK extinction.
The report also warns of the impact that these losses could have on human health, natural resources, and even the economy, with more risks of negative impacts from things such as air pollution and flooding.
On a more positive note, the report also commends the actions being taken to restore areas of wetlands, woodlands and peatlands, and praises efforts by both local communities and conservation organisations. But, whilst these have a vital and positive impact on saving nature, urgent, widespread action is needed to halt and reverse biodiversity loss to put nature on a path to recovery.
Michael Copleston, director of RSPB England, said: ‘For anyone who cares deeply about future generations and the state of nature, now is the time to urgently get to grips with the scale of our collective challenge.
‘The state of nature report draws on our very best science over decades, and spells out the magnitude of ecological loss and scale of effort that is so urgently needed.
‘We simply cannot be complacent with words such as extinctions, ecological tipping points, and nature and climate emergencies.
‘The difference we can make to help reverse the fortune of special wildlife or precious habitats is now urgently a matter of scale. Scale of effort. Scale of investment. Scale of action.
‘Some of the brilliant and awe inspiring stories of hope, like restoring populations of Red Kite and Bittern, shows we have many of the tools needed. But we cannot shy away from the fact that once common wildlife like hedgehogs and swifts are rapidly disappearing. We should be alarmed and we do need to act. Nature needs it and so do we.’
Dr David Noble, BTO principal ecologist – monitoring, said: ‘We are approaching a crossroads in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises. Research and monitoring have identified many solutions, and moreover, provide evidence that these can work when effectively deployed; the challenge is to massively scale up, and, given multiple threats, to incorporate nature friendly practices and policy into all sectors of society. But it isn’t just about tracking continuing declines – seeing the success of conservation efforts is a key motivator for the huge numbers of dedicated volunteers engaged in monitoring in the UK.’
Ben McCarthy, head of nature and restoration ecology at the National Trust, said: ‘This new report is sobering reading especially with its 19% decline in species abundance. But, if we create the right conditions, we can bring back nature.
‘We are committed to doing whatever it takes. We have seen just how quickly nature can recover. For instance, the recent river restoration project on the Holnicote Estate in Somerset where wildlife such as egrets, wagtails, toads and dragonflies have already ‘moved’ in after just a few weeks.
‘Targeted interventions and landscape scale restorations are both required to reverse the plight of the rarest species and recovering whole ecosystems. Now is the time to accelerate this work, to work in partnership and at scale to deliver better and bigger landscapes – a refuge for wildlife and people.’
You can read the full report at www.stateofnature.org.uk