2023 State of Nature Report…..A sobering read

Report identifies still work to do..

The State of Nature is the most comprehensive report on the UK’s current biodiversity and uses the latest and best data from biological monitoring and recording schemes, collated by the incredible work of thousands of skilled people, most of whom are volunteers, to provide a benchmark for the status of our wildlife.

The UK, like most other countries worldwide, has experienced a significant loss of biodiversity. The trends in nature presented in the report cover, at most, 50 years, but these follow on from major changes to the UK’s nature over previous centuries. As a result, the UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth.

The report focuses on three measures of biodiversity change: abundance (the number of individuals), distribution (the proportion of sites occupied) and extinction risk. These measures have been assessed for hundreds and in some cases thousands of species native to the UK, as the available data allows. The results show:

  • The number of species that have increased or decreased in abundance or distribution over time
  • The average change in abundance or distribution across species over time
  • The proportion of species at risk of being lost from the country.

In summary the report has identified:

  • Across the UK species studied have declined on average by 19% since 1970.
  • Nearly one in six species are threatened with extinction from Great Britain
  • 151 of 10,008 species assessed have already become extinct since 1500
  • In Northern Ireland, 12% of assessed species were at risk of extinction

Despite progress in ecosystem restoration, conserving species, and moving towards nature-friendly land and sea use, the UK’s nature and wider environment continues, overall, to decline and degrade.

Out of the assessed habitats which are important for wildlife, only one in seven (14%) were found to be in a good condition and only one in fourteen (7%) woodlands and a quarter (25%) of peatlands were assessed to be in a good ecological state. Due to habitat damage from fishing gear, none of the seafloor around the UK was found in good condition.

Despite recent moves towards more nature-friendly land and sea use, as yet only a fifth of farmland is now in agri-environment schemes with only some of that helping nature, just 44% of woodland is certified as sustainably managed and only half of fish stocks are sustainably harvested.

Although in the past 20 years all three measures have improved considerably, there is still a very long way to go.

The best available information suggests that nature-friendly farming needs to be implemented at a much wider scale to halt the decline in farmland wildlife and must be considered alongside the triple challenge:  responding to the climate and nature crises whilst still meeting people’s needs for food, energy, and fuel.

Optimistically the report also highlights where concerted wildlife conservation action has made a key difference to many species and habitats.  Nature conservation works but the scale and ambition need to be rapidly ramped up to tackle, stop and reverse the declines demonstrated by State of the report.

The report can be viewed in full here: