The State of Nature report is the most comprehensive snapshot of UK wildlife ever produced.
The report reveals the alarming decline of UK wildlife. This will probably be no surprise to most of you, so what’s new about this report that makes it so significant? Well firstly, it’s based on some of the best and most comprehensive data on wildlife anywhere in the world, collected by many thousands of volunteer recorders. You may well have contributed yourself if you have submitted data to one of Butterfly Conservation’s recording schemes on moths or butterflies.
The second notable thing is that it has been produced by a consortium of NGOs who have pooled their expertise for the first time to produce a rigorous scientific report. Our members often tell us that they would like NGOs to work more closely together and this is a tangible result. We are more powerful if we speak with one voice, as indeed we have in today’s media.
Thirdly, the report has a powerful foreword written by BC’s President, Sir David Attenborough. As one of the most respected people in the UK, it is wonderful to get his backing. Thanks to his help, we hope the report will be covered widely in the media and get the recognition the subject deserves.
The result is the most comprehensive snapshot of the state of nature ever produced, but as we were writing it we were painfully aware that it is very incomplete. We can only report on 5% of the 59,000 or so species in the UK because of lack of data on many small and difficult to identify species. Although we would like data on these other species, we have to go on what we know and assume that this 5% are likely to be representative of the rest.
The bottom line is that wildlife is in real trouble and faces many threats ranging from habitat loss, changing management and climate change. By bringing this data together in a single report, we all hope that we can raise greater awareness of species loss and the fact that we can do something about it. We need to wake politicians and policy makers up that they cannot sit idly by while the life-blood of the UK seeps away.
The other key message of the report is that despite living in a crowded island, we know how to reverse the declines of many wildlife species: we just need to get the right management in the right places and at the right scale. Butterfly Conservation’s recent Landscape Scale report shows that we can reverse the declines of some of our most threatened butterflies and moths, all we need is to raise sufficient funds to sustain this effort and roll this out more widely.
We will be using the report to lobby hard in Westminster for the government to do more for wildlife, not just in Defra, the Department for the Environment, but right across Whitehall departments, especially the Treasury. Defra has already had a 30% budget cut and faces more later this year. This has seriously eroded our ability to stem wildlife declines and the consequences will be dire to all of us. If we lose wildlife, our quality of life will be diminished, but so will the whole ability of our environment to sustain itself.
We live in a very difficult economic period, but at a recent meeting of fellow Chief Executives, we reminded ourselves that the biggest single piece of wildlife legislation was developed during the Second World War, at a time of deep national emergency. We need to think beyond our immediate worries and look at how we can create a healthy environment not only that we can live in today, but that our children and their children can live in. It is vital that we invest in the future of our wildlife, both for our sakes, for the sake of the wildlife that we share our planet with, and for the future of the planet.
Dr Martin Warren
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