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Sixty per cent of UK species in decline, groundbreaking study finds

Last modified: 22 May 2013

Marsh fritillary

Image: Butterfly Conservation - Martin Warren

UK nature is in trouble – that is the conclusion of a groundbreaking report published today by a coalition of leading conservation and research organisations.

Scientists working side-by-side from 25 wildlife organisations have compiled a stock take of our native species – the first of its kind in the UK. The report reveals that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

The State of Nature report will be launched by UK conservation charities at the Ulster Museum in Belfast this evening (Wednesday, May 22), while simultaneous events will be held in Cardiff, Edinburgh and London, where Sir David Attenborough will be speaking.

Sir David Attenborough said: “This groundbreaking report is a stark warning – but it is also a sign of hope.

“For 60 years I have travelled the world exploring the wonders of nature and sharing that wonder with the public. But as a boy my first inspiration came from discovering the UK’s own wildlife.

“Our islands have a rich diversity of habitats which support some truly amazing plants, animals, insects and sealife. We should all be proud of the beauty we find on our own doorstep from the Irish hare galloping over the fields of Rathlin Island, to the red kite soaring over the rolling hills of County Down and everything in between.

“This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate. However, we have in this country a network of passionate conservation groups supported by millions of people who love wildlife. The experts have come together today to highlight the amazing nature we have around us and to ensure that it remains here for generations to come.”

Dr Mark Eaton, a lead author on the report, said: “This report reveals that the UK’s nature is in trouble - overall we are losing wildlife at an alarming rate.

“These declines are happening across all parts of the UK, in habitats and species groups. In Northern Ireland, there are 472 species considered to be endangered, including the curlew, the harbour porpoise, the marsh honey fungus and the Irish lady’s tresses orchid.

“The Irish hare can only be found on this island and has suffered declines of 25% in the last 25 years. This is most likely due to the loss of hedgerows and rough pasture in the countryside, which these animals rely on.

“Reliable data across the UK goes back just 50 years, and here in Northern Ireland we have even less data than that. However, we do know that there has been a historical pattern of loss in the UK going back even further. Threats including sweeping habitat loss, changes to the way we manage our countryside, and the more recent impact of climate change, have had a major impact on our wildlife, and they are not going away.

“None of this work would have been possible without the army of volunteer wildlife enthusiasts who spend their spare time surveying species and recording their findings. Our knowledge of nature in the UK would be significantly poorer without these unsung heroes. And that knowledge is the most essential tool that conservationists have.”

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