More than one in ten UK species threatened with extinction, new study finds

Wednesday 14th September 2016

(c) Wildstock

It’s not too late to save UK nature but we must act now - that is the conclusion from a coalition of more than 50 leading wildlife and research organisations behind the State of Nature 2016 report.

Following on from the ground-breaking State of Nature report in 2013, leading professionals from 53 wildlife organisations have pooled expertise and knowledge to present the clearest picture to date of the status of our native species across land and sea. The report reveals that over half (56 per cent) of UK species studied have declined since 1970, while 15 per cent (1,199 of the nearly 8,000 species assessed in the UK) are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

[Gloucestershire has] some success stories to be proud of... ...water voles, woodlark and the large blue butterfly among them - but overall the tide is moving in the wrong direction

Roger Mortlock, Chief Executive of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT), said: “The State of Nature Report released today draws attention to the dramatic declines in British wildlife. This report confirms what many have feared, that nature is under threat. There are some success stories to be proud of here in Gloucestershire - water voles, woodlark and the large blue butterfly among them - but overall the tide is moving in the wrong direction. It is still within our gift to turn this around and there is one critical ingredient to successfully restoring nature - more people getting involved and showing that they value Gloucestershire’s wildlife.”

The national picture of decline is reflected here in Gloucestershire, where GWT President Ellie Harrison is leading a campaign encouraging people to ‘Say YES to Wildlife’.

The barn owl population is still low and a bad season (poor weather during the breeding season and reduced food supply) can lead to a crash. We saw this in 2015 in Gloucestershire.

In the Forest of Dean the small pearl bordered fritillary, championed by Butterfly Conservation and the Forestry Commission, is on the verge of extinction and there is probably nothing that can be done now to save it. From a high of over 40 sites in the 1980s it is now down to just two. Traditional orchards in Gloucestershire suffered a 69% loss between 1975 and 2009.

There are many inspiring examples of actions by individuals and organisations that are helping to turn the tide, from pioneering science that has revealed for the first time the reasons why nature is changing, to conservation projects including the protection and restoration of areas of our wetlands, wild-flower meadows and ancient woodlands.

In Gloucestershire, the woodlark has returned as a breeding species to some GWT nature reserves in the Forest of Dean for the first time since the 1960s as a result of joint work between GWT, the Forestry Commission and RSPB. The creation of open areas by extending the nature reserves has created the right conditions for this species and more work is planned to enable other sites to be colonised and for the woodlark to become re-established as a Gloucestershire breeding species.

The large blue butterfly is a Gloucestershire success story with the re-introduced population at Daneway Banks Nature Reserve now one of the most important in the UK. It has a buoyant population, which is already starting to colonise neighbouring areas. With appropriate management of these sites the butterfly will do well and spread still further. The project includes the support of members, individuals, volunteers and partners including GWT, the Royal Entomological Society, Butterfly Conservation and the University of Oxford.

As a result record numbers of the large blue butterfly were reported in 2016. None of this is possible without a focus on restoring nature. As the UK Government moves forward after the EU Referendum result, there is an opportunity to secure world-leading protection for our species and restoration of our nature. Now is the time to make ambitious decisions and significant investment in nature to ensure year-on-year improvement to the health and protection of the UK’s nature and environment for future generations.

The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before.

Sir David Attenborough, who launched the report commented: “The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before.

“The future of nature is under threat and we must work together; Governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”

For a full copy of the State of Nature report and to watch GWT President Ellie Harrison’s video message in response to the report visit

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