What can we do to turn the state of nature around?

The State of Nature Report launched today on the 4 October which presents the clearest picture to date of the status of our species in the UK. Read this blog for our reflections on the report from our Nature & Science Director Rosie Hails.

The fact that nature is in decline has been well known for a few decades now, and the causes of that decline have become increasingly clear. The publication of the State of Nature 2019 Report today has painted a stark picture of the loss of wildlife and yet this is still news for many people. The fabric of life that supports everything we do can disintegrate slowly for years, and the consequences slowly unfold, yet it can seem safe to put off action until tomorrow. After all, Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’ was published in the 1960s, before many of us were born. But now we are reaching a point when we can see the impacts of nature decline in our day to day experience. Cuckoos are among the species highlighted in the report as in decline. In fact, I did hear a cuckoo this spring, but only once or twice, and it was only so memorable because there have been years when I no longer hear them. They used to be a common sound for all of us indicating the arrival of spring.

Cuckoos, whose call was once a common sound of summer, are among the species in decline Credit: Ben Andrew/RSPB Images/PA

So, what can we do about it? It is clear that the intensive management of land has a large part to play, alongside climate change, pollution, urbanisation and other factors. Land managers have been responding to a food system which incentivises those intensive practices. In turn, that food system was supported by governments responding to the social and economic pressures after the second world war. This has set us on the current path, and we have been slow to change, despite the evidence of the consequences.

This can be turned around, and we have been working with farmers, governments and partners on trialling new methods and approaches for a nature-friendly farming system. To do this, we need a strong Environment bill and Agriculture bill, and the ability to enforce, invest in and implement what these bills propose.

We need to change now, and we know how to do it; The State of Nature showcases successes, including agri-environment schemes, reintroductions and restoration projects. The challenge now is to do this at a scale we have never seen before.

High Brown Fritillary butterfly, Heddon Valley. This species is perhaps the UK’s most threatened butterfly ©National Trust Images/Matthew Oates

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