The UK risks losing nearly one in six native species as wildlife continues its “devastating” decline, a study has found.
According to The Wildlife Trusts’ State of Nature report, most of the important habitats are in “poor condition”, but restoration projects could still help to rehabilitate some of the wildlife that has been lost.
The species studied have declined by an average of 19 per cent since monitoring began in 1970. But some groups have fared much worse than others, such as birds (43 per cent), amphibians and reptiles (31 per cent), fungi and lichen (28 per cent) and terrestrial mammals (26 per cent).
Species such as the turtle dove, hazel dormouse, lady’s slipper orchid and European eel now face an uncertain future, and there have also been declines in the distributions of more than half (54 per cent) of the UK’s flowering plant species, with species such as heather and harebell significantly at risk.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The State of Nature report is a stark reminder that politicians must not let nature drop down the agenda – there is far too much at stake. We desperately need better policies that fund nature-friendly farming properly, end the poisoning of lakes and rivers, and create larger wild and more natural areas – including in towns and cities.
“This next parliament will be the most important in my lifetime for nature and climate action. The clock is ticking towards the 2030 deadline, by which point the UK government has committed to protect at least 30 per cent of land and sea for nature and to halve the risks posed by pesticides. Nature recovery is fundamental to tackling climate change and improving people’s lives – history will not be kind to politicians who ignore this truth.”
Last year, Wildlife and Countryside Link found that the government was making minimal progress on plans to meet its 30 per cent commitment, with just 3.22 per cent of England’s land and 8 per cent of the sea effectively protected.
The State of Nature report estimates that due to human activity, the UK now has less than half of its biodiversity remaining. The evidence from the last 50 years shows that the intensive way in which land is managed for farming and the continuing effects of climate change are the two biggest drivers of nature loss. At sea, unsustainable fishing and climate change are the major contributing factors.
Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s chief executive, said: “The UK’s wildlife is better studied than in any other country in the world and what the data tells us should make us sit up and listen.
“What is clear is that progress to protect our species and habitats has not been sufficient, and yet we know we urgently need to restore nature to tackle the climate crisis and build resilience.”
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