No let-up in the decline of our wildlife
The UK’s wildlife is continuing to decline according to State of Nature Report 2023.
The UK, like most other countries worldwide, has seen significant loss of its plants, animals and fungi. The data from State of Nature cover, at most, 50 years but this follows on from centuries of habitat loss, development and persecution. As a result, the UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth.
But the reasons for the decline are clear and we know conservation actions deliver results for nature. We have never had a better understanding of the State of Nature and what is needed to fix it.
We have seen big changes in where wildlife is found
Invertebrates such as insects, spiders and millipedes have been found, on average, in 13% fewer places now than in 1970.
However there are much bigger declines in insects which have important roles such as pollination and crop pest control. Pollinators such as bees, hoverflies and moths, have decreased by 18% on average, whilst predatory insects, like the 2-spot Ladybird which help control crop pests, have declined by more than a third (34%).
Mayflies and dragonflies are some of the freshwater insects that help keep a healthy balance of nutrients in rivers and ponds. After an initial decline, they had a rapid recovery, although that has since slowed.
Declines of our flora
Since 1970 more than half of our flowering plants, mosses and their relatives have been lost from areas where they used to thrive.
54% of flowering plants and 59% of bryophytes (mosses and their relatives: liverworts and hornworts) across Great Britain have decreased in where they are found.
This means plants such as Heather and Chamomile are becoming less common.
Marine and our coasts
We know less about what is happening with the species in UK seas.
Well-monitored species of fish that live on or near the seafloor showed an average increase in numbers during the 1990s and early 2000s but have since declined.
Grey Seal numbers have increased as they recover from historical hunting pressure. Harbour Seals are in decline in parts of north-east Scotland and south-east England, but are stable or increasing in other regions.
The numbers of 13 species of seabird have fallen by an average of 24% since 1986.
The reasons behind nature’s decline
Changes in the way we manage our land for farming, and climate change were the biggest causes of wildlife decline on our land, rivers and lakes.
At sea, and around our coasts, it was as a result of unsustainable fishing, climate change and marine development.
The State of Nature report focuses on recent changes in biodiversity but we’ve been shaping our landscapes and wildlife for thousands of years. The UK’s nature has been depleted by centuries of habitat loss, development and persecution well before widespread data gathering began in 1970.
But we know nature conservation in action works
Conservation actions deliver results for nature
In Lyme Bay Marine Protected Area, the number of species has increased since trawling was banned in 2008.
Natterjack Toad populations have stabilised or expanded at sites where conservation management has been well-resourced
Large-scale restoration projects, such as Cairngorms Connect, are helping to benefit many woodland-dependent species
There are ways you can help nature
Producing the State of Nature report was only possible due to thousands of volunteers giving up their time to help record and monitor wildlife. There are a number of schemes which need more help.
You can count wildlife with these organisations:
State of Nature partners welcome volunteers to help with a wide range of tasks from managing nature reserves to answering the phone. Whatever your skills, you could help nature by volunteering your time and support.
Volunteers are always welcome with the organisations below:
From bats to butterflies, nature needs your help. Manage your space for wildlife, whether it’s in your garden, house, window box, school or office you can help nature thrive.
These are some of the organisations with great ideas for your green space:
From protecting important sites for wildlife to defending the laws that protect nature you can make your views count.