Saturday, 1 October 2016

Birdwatch - latest editorial

Issue 292 | October 2016

What’s happening to our wildlife? Sometimes it seems that no matter what we do or how much we care, it will never be enough. Evidence from the latest State of Nature report, recently published jointly by 25 UK conservation and research organisations, shows that 56 per cent of UK species studied have declined over the last 50 years, and that more than one in 10 of almost 8,000 species assessed continues to be under threat from vanishing from the UK completely.

Birds always seem to feature among the bad news. We already know that the breeding farmland bird index has fallen by 54 per cent from its 1970 level, while the last Birds of Conservation Concern update saw a net increase of 15 species on the Red List. The latest report amplifies such concerns.

Sadly, if you think that the government might read the warning signs and act, think again. Government spending on biodiversity in the UK has fallen by a third over the last seven years, and as a percentage of GDP it amounts to a negligible 0.025 per cent. Tellingly, in the notes accompanying these dismal figures, the government’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee admits that “Spending is one way of assessing the priority that is given to biodiversity within the UK public sector”. Or not, as the case may be.

In contrast, non-governmental organisations continue to maintain their overall biodiversity spending, and in fact the RSPB has increased its expenditure on conservation in each of the last 10 years. In the last financial year alone that amounted to £97.3 million, with a further £6.9 million on nature reserves and visitor facilities.

Money isn’t the only answer, but it certainly helps, and one good news story from the report is that targeted funding and action can make a dramatic difference to species on the ground. That’s why our own individual support for such organisations, through membership and participation in surveys to gather data, is more important now than ever before.

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