Britain’s Wildlife Is In Crisis
The 2016 State of Nature report paints a gloomy picture of Britain’s natural world. This morning’s headlines reveal the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with 1 in 10 our species of highest conservation concern under threat of extinction. We're at risk of losing much loved species – like kingfishers, hedgehogs, dormice and turtledoves – forever.
Insects that we rely on to pollinate our crops aren’t off the hook either: the high brown fritillary butterfly is at risk of extinction in the UK thanks to loss of habitat. Nor are plants escaping unscathed. Plant species are under more threat than animals, with 19% of species here in the UK under threat of extinction.
All in all, 15% of plant and animal species here in the UK are thought to be extinct – or very nearly so. That’s on top of the 2% of species we know we’ve already lost. Research in the State of Nature report reveals that ‘biodiversity intactness’ in the UK is anything but– of the 218 countries assessed, we ranked 189, having lost more nature and biodiversity than the global average.
Intensive farming is destroying our wildlife
While it’s easy to place blame for our disappearing nature on far off places and different generations, one of the major drivers is much closer to home: farming. The State of Nature report concludes that intensive farming has had the biggest impact on wildlife – an impact which has been overwhelmingly negative, especially over the past 40 years, as yield-boosting technologies like pesticide use have increased at nature’s expense.
Indeed, the 31,000 tonnes of chemicals used as pesticides in the UK each year have been proven to play a part in honeybee and pollinator decline. In the past decade, eight of our 25 bumblebee species have become threatened. 75% of UK butterfly species have declined and in the last 60 years we’ve lost 98% of the wildflower meadows.
Organic farming can save our wildlife
This April, our research found that bees can be exposed to more pesticides from contaminated wildflowers than from crops on farms. A staggering 97% of deadly neonicotinoid pesticides brought back to honeybee hives in pollen could come from wildflowers in field margins and hedges, rather than from crops on farms. This suggests the very places that are meant to be havens and nature reserves for wildlife are laden with chemicals. With 75% of the UK’s land used for farming and food production, the outlook is bleak.
The good news is that things can be better – organic farming is proving that. Organic farms support 50% more wildlife than non-organic farms. Organic farmers take great care in maintaining natural habitats such as ponds, banks and grasslands, as well as maintaining their hedgerows, which is particularly beneficial to hedgehogs, nesting birds and other small mammals.
Organic farming also protects our soils – and healthy soils are not only resilient to climatic changes such as floods and drought, but are a vital source of carbon storage. The world's soils hold three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and five times more than forests.
You can help - here's how
The State of Nature news is a real blow, but none of us should think that it is beyond our power to act to stop the crisis of our disappearing wildlife. You can help us fight for a better future for our wildlife and environment by finding out more about why we campaign for change or by becoming a member.