Study finds sixty percent of UK species in decline

Kew has contributed to a groundbreaking report on the state of wildlife in the UK in time for International Day of Biological Diversity. It reveals that 60% of species studied have declined over recent decades.

22 May 2013

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Photo of scots pine cone

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is increasingly at risk from pests and diseases

UK wildlife in trouble

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

Scientists working side-by-side from 25 wildlife organisations, including Kew, 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.

Our islands have a rich diversity of habitats which support some truly amazing plants and animals ... This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate.

Sir David Attenborough

Report launched by Sir David Attenborough

The State of Nature report will be launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation charities at the Natural History Museum in London today (May 22), while simultaneous events will be held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. At the London event, Kew’s Colin Clubbe will talk about how his team is helping to conserve the unique biodiversity of the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) -  16 far-flung island groups and peninsulas. Many of the unique plant species growing in the UKOTs are under threat, such as Ascension Island parsley fern (Anogramma ascensionis). Following essential field work by the UKOTs team, Kew’s Herbarium specimens and conservation facilities can be used to identify species of plant that are at risk, and safeguard them for our future. You can follow the progress of Kew’s UKOTs team on their blog.

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 and animals. We should all be proud of the beauty we find on our own doorstep; from bluebells carpeting woodland floors and delicately patterned fritillary butterflies, to the graceful basking shark and the majestic golden eagle soaring over the Scottish mountains.

“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.” 

Losing UK wildlife at an alarming rate

Photo of a membr of Kew's UKOTs team monitoring Anogramma ascensionis
Monitoring Ascension Island parsley fern (Anogramma ascensionis)

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 countries and UK Overseas Territories, habitats and species groups, although it is probably greatest amongst insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles. Other once common species like the lesser spotted woodpecker, barbastelle bat and hedgehog are vanishing before our eyes.

“Reliable data on these species goes back just fifty years, at most, but we 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. Volunteers are invaluable.

“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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Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership has successfully banked 10% of the world's wild plant species and we have set our sights on saving 25% by 2020.

Without plants there could be no life on earth, and yet every day another four plant species face extinction. Help Kew protect the future of the world's plant life.

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