Worrying decline of UK species - State of Nature Report

Posted by Cain Blythe - CEnv MIEMA MCIEEM MSc BSc (Hons) on 28/05/2013

Recently 25 wildlife organisations collaborated and undertook a stock take of wildlife in the UK. Between these 25 organisations (including high profile organisations such as the RSPB and British Lichen society) they assessed over three thousand species.

Some of the results of the State of Nature Report are quite shocking - it is estimated that over the past 50 years, 60% of the species that were studied showed a decline in numbers and while this is only a small sample of the total number of species in the UK (Currently estimated at around 59,000), it is very likely that this is study is an indication of a worrying trend.

One of the most shocking examples is the turtle dove population, down a massive 93% since 1970. Another serious decline has been in the population of harbour seals on the Scottish coast, down 31% since 1996. Overall beetles and wildflowers are considered the most vulnerable types of species surveyed.

There are numerous reasons that have been given for these declines. Rising temperatures have affected the seasons and this can often make it harder for animals to adapt. This is also true of changing environments such as the removal of hedgerows.

In an attempt to stem the tide of decline, the conservation organisations involved in the project have encouraged members of the public to be involved with monitoring species and to push for better land management by both businesses and members of the public. By being more aware of how we handle the environment and how it affects the plants and animals within it there is the chance to reverse the decline of plant and animal species.

There is also the fact that more survey data is needed, as the study only covered 5% of UK species. Dr Fiona Burns (one of the lead authors of the report) hopes by including more specialised experts they can get a more balanced view of species decline in the UK "[The knowledge gaps] highlight that there are big biases in what we study, what we monitor. If we want to get an idea of the health of the eco-systems and our biodiversity we need to redress that balance."