Act now to save UK nature - wildlife expert’s call to arms

Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, standing on grass. Photo: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, standing on grass. Photo: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

It’s not too late to save UK nature but we must act now. That is the conclusion from a coalition of more than 50 leading wildlife and research organisations behind the State of Nature 2016 report.

Following on from the ground-breaking State of Nature report in 2013, leading professionals 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, which will be launched by David Attenborough this morning (Wednesday, September 14), reveals that over half (56 per cent) of UK species studied have declined since 1970, while more than one in ten (1,199 species) of the nearly 8,000 species assessed in the UK are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

The State of Nature in Sussex

The South-East historically holds some of the most important habitats for internationally threatened species, including lapwing, turtle dove and nightingale.

Changes to land use, including urbanisation and intensive agriculture, mean that in some areas, less than 60 per cent of native species remain.

In Sussex, the RSPB is working with commercial farmers and landowners to create wildlife friendly farming plots, to increase habitat and food availability for the red listed turtle dove, which will also benefit a host of other farmland species, including skylark and yellowhammer.

The RSPB holds over 30 reserves in the South-East, some of which are home to breeding populations of threatened nightingale, lapwing and little tern.

The RSPB says that by working with local communities and partners, they are able to protect even more of the nature in the region.

“Through partnership projects, such as ARC, we have helped secure the future of one of the three remaining breeding colonies of water vole in Sussex, and our Aldi partnership is helping us to educate thousands of young people on how making small changes to their green spaces can help save much loved species such as hedgehogs, stag beetles and starlings; all of which are severely declining in the UK.”

Annie Brown, of Paythorne Farm, Sussex, said: “With support and advice from the RSPB, we secured government funding to help attract threatened birds to our 575 hectare family farm on the South Downs. Whilst still producing food, we are now providing a home to corn buntings, skylarks and turtle doves, and our fields are filled with the sound of bird song and buzzing bees while we work. It’s a great feeling, knowing that our farm can make space for nature while providing us with a living.”

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 promoted exciting and innovative conservation projects. Landscapes are being restored, special places defended, struggling species being saved and brought back. But we need to build significantly on this progress if we are to provide a bright future for nature and for people.

“The future of 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 work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”