One in 10 UK species threatened with extinction, study finds

David A

More than one in 10 UK species is now threatened with extinction, a study involving Butterfly Conservation has revealed.

Time is running out to save UK nature – that is the conclusion from a coalition of more than 50 nature conservation and research organisations behind the State of Nature 2016 report.

Following on from the groundbreaking State of Nature report in 2013, leading experts from 53 wildlife organisations have pooled expertise and knowledge to present the clearest picture to date of the status of our native species across land and sea.

The report reveals that 56% of UK species studied have declined over the last 50 years. While more than one in ten of a total of 7,964 species assessed in the UK are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

The pattern of decline is evident across all countries, and many habitats and species groups, although it is greatest among invertebrates. Other once common species like turtle dove, willow tit, hedgehog, corn buttercup and garden tiger moth are vanishing before our eyes.

Butterfly Conservation President Sir David Attenborough said: “The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before. The rallying call issued after the State of Nature report in 2013 has prompted exciting and innovative conservation projects. Landscapes are being restored, special places defended, struggling species being saved and brought back. But we need to build on this progress if we are to provide a brighter future for nature and for people."

“The future of UK nature is under threat and we must work together; Governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and, I believe that we can turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”

For the first time, leading experts have been able to identify and quantify the main reasons why the UK's nature is changing. Using evidence from the last 50 years to explain population trends of a sample of 400 UK species, changes in agricultural practises, and climate change have been shown to be the two greatest factors to have had an impact on our wildlife.

The short terms trends for the UK’s nature have also been revealed for the first time. Over the last decade 53% of UK species have declined, and there is little evidence that the rate of loss of nature is slowing down.

Dr Mark Eaton, a lead author on the report, said: “Never before have we known this much about the state of UK nature and the threats it is facing. We’re losing wildlife at an alarming rate but with commitment and leadership, we should be able to work together towards stopping and reversing these declines.”

Since 2013, the State of Nature partnership has used the findings of the first report to support their work. There are many inspiring examples of conservation action helping to turn the tide, from improving habitats and creating new wildlife sites to taking actions for struggling and tackling the main pressures on nature.

Want to do your bit for butterflies and moths? Find out how you can help. 

 

Case Studies

  • The High Brown Fritillary is our most endangered UK butterfly, having declined in range by 96% since 1970. It is now found on around 40 sites where Butterfly Conservation and other partners are working hard to conserve its habitat.
     
  • The Duke of Burgundy is one of our rarest butterflies found in around 100 sites. It has been saved from the brink of extinction thanks to concerted action by Butterfly Conservation and many State of Nature partners.