Nature in a State
Your local wildlife is in danger. That is the conclusion of a major study recently published by some of the country's leading nature conservation bodies and researchers. The report, 'State of Nature', was launched by Sir David Attenborough on 22 May. It shows that two out of three of the hundreds of species studied are declining, and one in ten of them are heading for extinction in Britain. Sir David said 'This groundbreaking report is a stark warning ...... it shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate. 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'.
The report looks at all major habitats, including woodlands, wetlands and urban greenspaces. In every case the story is the same. Despite the work of organisations like the Wildlife Trusts, the Woodland Trust and the RSPB, plants and animals are losing ground everywhere. Woodland is a typical example - it has increased over the last forty years, but of more than 1200 species studied which rely on it 60% have declined, mirroring the story elsewhere.
The causes are many, but mainly relate to increasing numbers of people and their damaging activities. Some of the damage is deliberate, as when houses are built on heathlands, the countryside is despoiled by major projects like railways and airports, or wildlife-rich brownfield sites are developed. Other damage is unintentional, such as global warming, changes to farming, or wetland pollution caused by boating and fishing. The problem is that there is so much damage occurring in so many places at the same time.
If the causes of the problem are many, the consequences if nothing is done will be equally diverse and potentially serious. We rely on wildlife and natural systems for, amongst other things, food, medicines, clean air and water, and spiritual refreshment. This report should act as a wakeup call to our leaders to change some of their priorities. Nurturing nature is as important as promoting economic growth and social development. When will the Government invest in the agencies responsible for nature instead of constantly cutting both their resources and powers? What confidence can we have in it while it is licensing the badger cull, resisting European protective legislation, looking at proposals to control buzzards and to deregulate river dredging, and dragging its feet on declaring Marine Conservation Zones?
As for the organisations which produced the report they too need to look at how their work can meet its challenges. The report rightly highlights their successes, such as the return of otters and some birds of prey, as well as the support and voluntary effort of millions of people. There is a danger though that the high profile success stories will mask the underlying trends of loss and depletion.