Tag: biodiversity loss

WCL | DEFRA fails to set target to halt decline of nature

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the government’s plans for the Environment now that we have left the EU and No10 is redrawing itself as wildlife-friendly. Last month, George Eustice, the current Environment Secretary promised a “Net Zero equivalent for nature” through a “legally binding target for species abundance for 2030, aiming to halt the decline of nature”. This ‘promise’ followed an apparently successful campaign for a “State of Nature” target to halt nature’s decline by 2030, which was supported by 70 organisations and over 180,000 people who signed an e-petition. Halting decline seems like a reasonable step to take, doesn’t it? We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis, after all, but apparently that is imposing too many demands on business for Defra, which has slid an amendment into the Bill requiring the ‘slowing’ of decline instead. What does that mean? Slowing to half of what it is now? 99% of what it is now? 1% of what it is now? That doesn’t seem to be clear but ‘slowing’ is one of those ‘kicking the can into the long grass’ phrases, that are pretty much open to interpretation.

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Guest Post: Shrewsbury | ‘The Road to Ruin’

Shropshire Council is planning to spend at least £87 million, plus an unlimited overspend, on a road through the unspoiled countryside near Shrewsbury. The council says that this will reduce congestion in the town centre and thus ‘improve Shrewsbury as a place in which to live, work and invest’. Better Shrewsbury Transport (BeST) is an alliance of local organisations and individuals that have a completely different vision: we are campaigning for urgent investment in active and sustainable modes of transport that are the only effective ways to reduce congestion, poor air quality and road deaths/injuries in the town whilst transforming all our lives for the better. In their campaign against the plan, BeST have now been joined by over 3,000 objections to Shropshire Council, objections from 2 climate change/zero carbon groups in Shropshire and Shrewsbury Town Council. Guest alert by Dorothy Harrison.

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Biodiversity? The UK is losing it fast

We’re often told that we need positive messaging to turn the UK’s biodiversity crisis around. Talk about the good things rather than endlessly focussing on the bad. There are a few positives of course, like the 1026% increase in the Red Kite population between 1995-2014. Pine Martens are recovering and are being seen in counties right across England, Wales, and Scotland. We’ve far more Large Blue butterflies than half a century ago. But then again, Red Kites were almost persecuted to extinction here. Ditto the Pine Marten. The Large Blue was officially declared extinct in 1979. What we’re calling recoveries are numbers building up from almost zero. In the meantime…well, in the meantime a lot more of our wildlife is disappearing fast…

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Big Garden Birdwatch – we’re losing our ‘common’ birds too

Lockdown, we’re told. has helped us appreciate our gardens. Stuck in our homes we have turned to staring longingly out of the window, grateful for glimpses of colour as birds like Greenfinches and Great Tits flit over our fences in a kaleidoscope of feathers…Will that last? It would be wonderful if the UK’s collective focus on the birds that do their best to survive alongside us had become permanent, because it’s not just farmland, upland, woodland and wetland birds that are in trouble – according to the results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch (BGBW), the more or less official national garden bird survey, so are our garden birds. But that is something that we can all help to turn around…

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BTO | Bird Trends 2020

The latest BirdTrends report from the BTO provides an early indication of one of the periodic revisions of the UK’s Red List (species with the highest conservation priority and needing urgent action) due to be published at the end of this year. Essentially, the report is a one-stop-shop for information about the population status of familiar breeding birds across the UK – a region already identified by a previous report as one of the most nature-depleted in the world. And it is very, very bad news indeed. Many of the highlighted species would once have not only been familiar to pre-war generations, they would have been everyday companions. Prior to the industrialisation of agriculture, their pastures would have been flower-rich meadows with massive insect communities providing seeds and protein for countless Cuckoos, Corn Buntings, Lapwings and Grey Partridges. Our woodlands, now often neglected with (in the absence of apex predators) unsustainable numbers of Roe Deer, were once composed mainly of native tree species and edged by scrub. They would have been bursting with Nightingales, Willow Tits and Spotted Flycatchers. Many of us now go all year without even seeing a single individual of any of them.

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The War on Wildlife | It’s time to talk food

‘Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss’ “explores the role of the global food system as the principal driver of accelerating biodiversity loss” and the authors explicitly state that “food production is degrading or destroying natural habitats and contributing to species extinction”. They go on to explain how what they term the ‘cheaper food paradigm’ has driven the expansion of agricultural land and intensive farming. Failure to account for the environmental cost of food production has led to habitat destruction and pollution, driving wildlife loss”. Essentially, our global food system is a vicious circle of cheap food, where low costs drive a bigger demand for food and more waste. More competition then drives costs even lower through more clearing of natural land and use of polluting fertilisers and pesticides. Agriculture is now the main threat to 86% of the 28,000 species known to be at risk of extinction.

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Who eats all the soya?

One of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss is habitat loss to agriculture – in other words, enormous changes to natural habitats to grow our food. It’s estimated that as recently as 1000 years ago, less than 4% of the world’s ice-free and non-barren land area was used for farming. Now we have taken nearly HALF of all habitable land on the planet for our agriculture. The vast Cerrado region of Brazil, for example, once covered an area half the size of Europe, but around half the native savannah and forest of the Cerrado has been converted to agriculture since the late 1950s. Converted mainly for beef cattle ranching and to grow soybeans. Since the 1950s global soybean production has increased 15 times over. But who – or what – is eating all those beans…?

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Petition | Protect the UK’s dwindling hedgehog population.

The population of the UK’s Hedgehogs has fallen by as much as 50% in the last twenty years, and in July this year, a study conducted by the Mammal Society concluded that one of the very few animals that almost anyone in the UK can recognise has declined by so much that it should now be considered Vulnerable to Extinction. Loss of habitat, collisions with vehicles, and roads and fences acting as barriers to the movement of hedgehogs, (which isolate populations and make them more vulnerable to local extirpation), are thought to be the principle factors impacting the species. An epetition has been launched

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