UK nature is in trouble – that is the conclusion of a groundbreaking report published this week by a coalition of leading conservation and research organisations.
Butterflies and moths have been particularly badly affected – almost three quarters of UK butterfly species have decreased in population during the last decade and the number of the UK’s larger moths has crashed during the past 40 years.
Scientists from 25 wildlife organisations have compiled a stock take of our native species and found that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from the UK altogether.
The unique report, based on scientific analysis of tens of millions of observations from volunteers, shows that from woodland to farmland and from freshwater streams to the sea, many animals, birds, insects, fish and plants are in trouble.
The causes include the intensification of farming, with the consequent loss of meadows, hedgerows and ponds and increased pesticide use, as well as building development, overfishing and climate change.
The State of Nature report was launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation charities at the Natural History Museum in London on Wednesday, while simultaneous events were held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Sir David Attenborough said: “This groundbreaking report is a stark warning – but it is also a sign of hope. For 60 years I have travelled the world exploring the wonders of nature and sharing that wonder with the public. But as a boy my first inspiration came from discovering the UK’s own wildlife.
“Our islands have a rich diversity of habitats which support some truly amazing plants and animals. We should all be proud of the beauty we find on our own doorstep; from bluebells carpeting woodland floors and delicately patterned fritillary butterflies, to the graceful basking shark and the majestic golden eagle soaring over the Scottish mountains.
“This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate. However, we have in this country a network of passionate conservation groups supported by millions of people who love wildlife. The experts have come together today to highlight the amazing nature we have around us and to ensure that it remains here for generations to come.”
Dr Mark Eaton, a lead author on the report, said: “This report reveals that the UK’s nature is in trouble – overall we are losing wildlife at an alarming rate.These declines are affecting our insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles, the most, but other once common species, like the lesser spotted woodpecker, barbastelle bat and hedgehog are vanishing before our eyes.
“Threats including sweeping habitat loss, changes to the way we manage our countryside, and the more recent impact of climate change, have had a major impact on our wildlife, and they are not going away.
“None of this work would have been possible without the army of volunteer wildlife enthusiasts. Our knowledge of nature in the UK would be significantly poorer without these unsung heroes. And that knowledge is the most essential tool that conservationists have.”