Almost two-thirds of British wildlife species included in a study have declined over the past 50 years, according to a new report.
The State of Nature report was backed by 25 wildlife and conservation organisations. It revealed that 60% of the species studied had declined and more than one in 10 of all species assessed were under threat from disappearing from the UK altogether.
Lead author Mark Eaton said: “The UK’s nature is in trouble; overall we are losing wildlife at an alarming rate”.
The report shows the greatest declines are among insects, such as British moths, butterflies and beetles.
“Other species such as the lesser spotted woodpecker, barbastelle bat and hedgehog, which were once common species, are vanishing before our eyes,” Dr Eaton said.
The report only covered 5% of 59,000 native species and the authors admitted there were “some gaps”.
However, Dr Eaton blamed the decline on “sweeping habitat loss, changes to the way in which the countryside is managed and, more recently, the effect of climate change”.
But NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said: “No farmer will welcome news that wildlife populations are deteriorating. Indeed, many farmers and visitors to the countryside will be surprised about the report’s findings, given the huge effort farmers now make to manage the environment.
“For example, our work with the RSPB and other conservation bodies as part of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment has brought more than 200,000ha of land into positive conservation management since 2009. This in addition to more than 50,000 agreements farmers have signed in the government’s environmental stewardship scheme.
“State of Nature reports that wildlife populations have changed significantly during the past 50 years. But no area of our economy or society has stood still over this same time period, and farming and the countryside are no different. Urbanisation, climate change and changing land use have all had their effect as the report argues. The challenge the report offers is to find ways in which farming can continue to produce high-quality British food, be a positive force in the countryside and support the nation’s wildlife.”