School of Life Sciences


New report shows British wildlife is continuing to decline at an alarming rate

© Ben Hall (Courtesy of RSPB)

© Bob Eade (Courtesy of RSPB)

The UK’s wildlife is continuing to decline, according to a new report co-authored by a University of Sussex Professor.

The State of Nature 2019 report finds that, since rigorous scientific monitoring began in the 1970s, there has been a 13% decline in average abundance across wildlife studied.

Butterflies and moths have been particularly hard hit with numbers of butterflies down by 17% and moths down by 25%. The numbers of species, such as the High Brown Fritillary and Grayling, that require more specialised habitats have declined by more than three quarters.

The UK’s mammals also fare badly with greater than 26% of species at risk of disappearing altogether.

Fiona Mathews, Professor of Environmental Biology at the University of Sussex, and Chair of the Mammal Society, said: "We have identified seven species of mammal which are in grave danger of disappearing from our landscape; the wildcat, greater mouse-eared bat, grey long-eared bat, black rat, red squirrel, water vole and beaver.

“Populations of some of Britain's most iconic mammals, including the hedgehog and the dormouse, are also declining.”

Following the State of Nature reports in 2013 and 2016, leading professionals from more than 70 wildlife organisations joined with government agencies for the first time, to present the clearest picture to date of the status of our species across land and sea.

The State of Nature partnership includes the Mammal Society, RSPB, Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth, the Wildlife Trusts and the WWF among many others.

Whilst the data that the report shows is alarming there is also cause for some cautious hope. The report showcases a wide range of exciting conservation initiatives, with partnerships delivering inspiring results for some of the UK’s nature. Species such as Bitterns and the Large Blue Butterfly have been saved through the concerted efforts of organisations and individuals.

Professor Mathews said:  “Wildlife charities are united in their belief that there is hope. We highlight, in the State of Nature, some of the key threats to British Wildlife, including urban expansion, pollution and land management.

“There are now opportunities to tackle these issues and create an environment that is good for both wildlife and people.

“We also call on the public to help us find out more about the state of British Mammals, and identify ways to halt the decline. We have the data gathering technology at our fingertips and we would urge everyone to get involved." 

Daniel Hayhow, lead author on the report, said: We know more about the UK’s wildlife than any other country on the planet, and what it is telling us should make us sit up and listen.

“We need to respond more urgently across the board if we are to put nature back where it belongs. Governments, conservation groups and individuals must continue to work together to help restore our land and sea for wildlife and people in a way that is both ambitious and inspiring for future generations.

“In this report we have drawn on the best available data on the UK’s biodiversity, produced by partnerships between conservation NGOs, research institutes, UK and national governments, and thousands of dedicated volunteers. It’s through working together that we can help nature recover but the battle must intensify.”

For a full copy of the State of Nature 2019 report and to find out how you can do your bit to save UK wildlife visit

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By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Wednesday, 13 November 2019