6:30 PM 27th September 2023
New State Of Nature Report Uses Local Data To Highlight The Devastating Loss Of UK Nature
Hedgehog - credit Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
While Starlings or Hedgehogs may still be a familiar sight in some gardens, the new State of Nature 2023 report, published today (Wednesday 27 September), reveals the devastating scale of nature loss across England.
The 2023 report, which has been compiled by leading professionals from over 60 research and conservation organisations contains the best available data on the UK’s biodiversity. This includes data from scientists and volunteers monitoring nature in Yorkshire. It provides a detailed picture of how nature is faring across the UK’s towns, cities, countryside and seas.
Now conservationists, scientists and experts are sounding the alarm for nature once again.
Starling - credit Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
The new 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 remaining2
The report looks at evidence going back more than 50 years, monitoring populations, pressures and threats and identifying large-scale patterns. Conservationists are concerned that all the groups studied show worrying declines in numbers.
Some of the species groups suffering the biggest population losses are insects, plants and some fish, including those found in the North Sea. European Eel, Lady's Slipper Orchid, Turtle Dove and Hazel Dormouse are all now threatened with extinction in the UK.
Turtle Dove - credit Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
While people may be less familiar with these species, which are disappearing from farmlands, uplands, woodlands, wetlands or seas, these at-risk species are often vital parts of the food chain. Some also provide vital ecosystem services such as pollination. Their losses can ripple through our environment, making it harder for other species to survive.
...now is the time to urgently get to grips with the scale of our collective challenge.
The report shows that almost 1,500 species are at risk of UK extinction and there are multiple challenges that need to be addressed to help them. These include a lack of available food, lack of habitat, the impacts of the climate crisis or pollution.
It also highlights the complex relationships between species, as the loss of a food source may affect the survival of multiple other species.
Conservationists are also warning that the challenges facing nature have a negative impact on human health and the natural resources we rely on, such as food and water. Air pollution and flooding, both of which threaten wildlife, can also pose human health risks. Agriculture produces 11% of UK greenhouse gas emissions and 87% of the UK's ammonia emissions3, which impacts both public health and wildlife.
Hazel Dormouse - credit Hugh Clark
In many cases, the solutions to the challenges nature faces are known. Projects to restore habitats such as peatlands, wetlands and woodlands are now underway to help capture carbon and save species. The report celebrates the successes of communities, conservation organisations and agencies in restoring nature for wildlife and people.
While local conservation efforts and community action 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 for the benefit of people and planet.
The State of Nature report 2023 identifies practices associated with industrial-scale farming as one of the most significant threats to species and habitats in England, with climate change also highlighted as a key threat.
Fen Orchid credit Mike Waller - Plantlife
Over 69% of England is agricultural land, including parts of Yorkshire. Successful long-term trials of Nature-Friendly farming methods show that with the right support and funding in place, English farmland could be managed to reverse biodiversity loss while still providing high-quality food and produce for consumers.
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.”