In 2013, the first State of Nature report was published and it provided, for the first time, a shared evidence about what was happening to wildlife across the UK. In short, it united the conservation community behind a common UK nature conservation story.
Today, the third such report has been published this time with an increased partnership of more than 70 wildlife organisations which this time includes the government agencies. This feels right given that many of the volunteer schemes which generate the data are supported by governments.
The headlines are that since the 1970s…
…there has been a 13% decline in average abundance across wildlife studied
…41% of UK species studied have declined, 26% have increased and 33% show little change since 1970
…133 species assessed have already been lost from the UK since 1500
…the good news is that there are some conservation successes bolstered by growing public support, an increase in NGO expenditure (which is up by 24% since 2010/11) and a 46% increase in time donated by volunteers since 2000
…the really bad news is this is not a historical problem as data show that the declines continue and the pressures on nature intensify. What’s more, public sector expenditure on biodiversity in the UK, as a proportion of GDP, has fallen by 42% since a peak in 2008/09.
Tim Melling's photo a roseate tern - a species that is bouncing back thanks to a EU Life funded project
So, what to do?
You will have your own views (and I would be interested to hear them) but here are some early thoughts from the RSPB…
…political parties need to compete for and then deliver the strongest plan to tackle the climate and ecological emergency across the UK
…these emergency plans must include new legally binding targets coupled with new environmental governance to drive the recovery of nature
…reformed agriculture and fisheries policies/funding are essential to restore wildlife on land and sea
…the environmental footprint of the UK economy must be reduced through government targets and action from businesses
…collaboration both within the European Union and further afield to take action to save our shared nature needs to be bolstered irrespective of the outline of the Brexit impasse
…a new global deal for nature needs to be secured in 2020 to increase ambition for more land/sea to be protected for nature and resources made available to make this happen
…the momentum for civil society action that has been triggered by Greta Thunberg, the climate strikes and Extinction Rebellion should be maintained to encourage politicians to be bolder
…those conservation interventions which are improving the natural world (such as RSPB partnership projects on Gough, on Orkney in Scotland, for Celtic Rainforests, Collaboration Across Borders for Biodiversity, and Wallasea should be profiled and used as inspiration to and generate optimism for all
…all organisations should strive to improve their own environmental performance (which is why I plan to share very soon an update of what the RSPB has been doing)
…we must never give up
I congratulate all those involved in producing the 2019 State of Nature report – it is a fabulous achievement. We need it to trigger the right response from politicians, businesses and civil society, so do please read it and let me know what you think.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654