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UK Wildlife faces down the threat of extinction

Written by Science

A recent report released by the State of Nature has found that UK wildlife is now changing at a rate quicker than ever, with over half of the 7000 species studied experiencing rapid increase or decrease over the last decade. Over a quarter of the UK’s mammals and a fifth of plant species are now at risk of extinction, with figures set to worsen in coming years.

The State of Nature report found that reductions in species are likely to be a direct result of the intensification of agriculture. Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), stated that she expects pressure on farming to continue as ‘Over the next 30 years, farmers will need to produce more food to meet the demands of a growing population’. The report argues that this growing demand for food has had a ‘dramatic impact on farmland diversity’, with the UK’s population of skylarks, a farmland bird, halving during the 1990s.

Attempts to combat this decline have included targeted wildlife-friendly farming, which, through the support of government-funded agri-environment schemes (AES), may have slowed the deterioration of farmland habitats. However, this has failed to stop and overturn the decline, suggesting that more needs to be done in order to conserve these valuable habitats.

Rosie Hails, nature and science director at the National Trust, has called for ‘a strong new set of environmental laws to hold our governments and others to account and to set long-term ambitious targets’. Changes within government are urgently required as the report also found that climate change is having a significant impact on the ecology, distribution and abundance of the UK’s wildlife, which is expected to continue for decades and potentially centuries to come. The UK’s 10 hottest years have occurred since 2002, causing many species of birds and butterflies to move their ranges north, whilst warming seas have resulted in the disruption of fish and plankton distribution.

There is therefore a growing need for action and change, with NGOs encouraging young people to educate adults and put pressure on those in positions of power. Despite a lack of governmental change, the people have taken power into their own hands. The amount of time volunteers have dedicated to conservation in the UK has increased by 40% since 2000, amounting to 7.5 million hours. This highlights how individual actions can have a significant impact and should encourage us to play our role in reducing contributions to climate change, in order to conserve the UK’s rich and diverse wildlife for generations to come.

Last modified: 20th October 2019

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