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Over half of UK species in decline

Staff Writer |
Over half of the UK’s species are in decline, with 15% at risk of vanishing.

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What is more, according to a major report by 50 wildlife and research organisations, intensive agriculture is the leading cause of losses.

The State of Nature 2016 report - an update of a groundbreaking paper from 2013 which tracked the fortunes of thousands of species of plant and animal - has concluded that immediate action is needed to reverse startling biodiversity declines in Britain.

The report looks at the long-term and short-term fortunes of 8,000 species in the UK’s land and freshwater habitats.

In all, 56% of species have experienced declines in numbers or range since 1970, and 53% suffered declines between 2002 and 2013 (when the first report was published).

More than ten percent of species (1,199 of 8,000) were classed as being at risk of disappearing from our shores altogether.

Though climate change, urban sprawl and other factors leading to loss of habitats are having an effect on declines, the report finds that agriculture - which accounts for over 70% of land-use in the country - is having an “overwhelming negative” effect on biodiversity in Britain.

Preliminary findings for the updated report, conducted by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE in March, showed that in Britain at least, agriculture has been worse for species than climate change.

Agricultural factors influencing declines include a loss of mixed farms, changes in sowing patters, a switch from hay to silage in pastures, new chemistry and increased use of some pesticides and fertilisers and a loss of hedgerow and pond habitats from farmland.