We as humans can often get so caught up in our hectic urban lives, spending all day seeing only other people. It can be easy then, to forget that we cohabit our spaces with many other species.
Can you guess how many we share the UK with?
70,000. That is 70,000 species of animal, plant, fungi, grass in the UK alone! To be fair, we don’t exactly see them every day – if you’re a wildlife fanatic you probably have seen some through your screens in the form of documentaries. However, so many go unnoticed from the humble Silphidae (beetles that feed on decaying matter, often dead animals) to the mighty fox, which can live a lot closer to city centres than you may think. We can be dismissive of these species and this tends to continue to keep them out of the conversation, when it comes to what we love about nature.
But as our Vanishing campaign makes clear, 41% of these species (or the ones that were studied for the State of Nature report) are declining. The UK is 189th in the world for biodiversity and has missed most of its major targets for preventing the loss of biodiversity in the last decade. Making targets is all well and good but if we don’t then follow up on creating successful plans and holding the government to account when they fail, they are pointless.
If you asked somebody “what is the population of the world”, you’d probably get an answer of around 7.5 to 8 billion, but this is in fact wrong. There are around 8.7 million species of wildlife in the whole world, and imagine how many individuals there are in each species, we actually have no idea of how many organisms this earth holds!
Our human-centric focus tends to keep us from moving forward and clouds are judgement regarding policy change. Something that must be reworked.
If you look back at some of our previous blogs at UK Youth for Nature (you can find the link below!), you will see that we have discussed ecosystem services; the benefits they can give are vast and varied but none of these would occur without the support of a diverse set of species that fill all the niches (Little quirks) of a habitat. I truly believe that if you picked out any species – yes any out of the 8.7 million – it is more than likely indirectly part of your life
whether it be pollination from wild honey bees (creating fruits and seeds), the little bit of joy you gain when you see a heron standing in a pond, the brush of some moss instead of scraping your hand on stone or even just being able to breath slightly healthier air thanks to a few trees lining the street.
While I would love to type for pages and pages about how great the earth’s species are for all that it does, there are some harsh statistics surrounding what is happening to them. Wildlife experts calculate that a low-ball estimate between 0.01-0.1% of all species are lost every year. Looking at the number 0.01 seems pretty minute, right?
At this rate, we are still losing 8,700 per year; it’s far too much to lose globally. Especially when you take into account some of these are from small changes we have made, like neonicotinoids, fisher trawling, etc.
There’s a lot of things the government could do in this regard, without stating the obvious that they should have stuck to the targets they set and aggressively pushed to achieve them by 2020. They could always make more aggressive action for 2025 and fund this area significantly to get back on track of their own plan. But, we know that’s unlikely to bear any fruit and so what they could do instead is turn protected areas already created, into havens for wildlife. Often they’re miss-managed, under funded and generally disregarded by the wider public. Make these areas beautiful retreats for nature, pillars of the community and beacons of hope to show that the UK should not be a 189th best for biodiversity country (https://www.britishwildlife.com/article/volume-30-number-2-page-87-95).
In addition they need to fund and provide enough legal enforcement to environmental enforcement agencies (Natural England and Environment Agency to name two), so that they can spend the time needed to continuously educate and reinforce the importance of biodiversity across the UK. That funding should then filter down into nature itself, simply comparing it to road infrastructure funding makes it look miniscule. £3 billion is a laughable amount when we’re already so far behind the promises the government made 10 years ago. Why isn’t it our priority to save the biodiversity on our little island?
Local authorities should take a tougher stance on planning proposals and utilise the knowledge of experts when required. Wider government should create nationwide nature plans to reduce the distance needed to find a local site, corridors for nature should be created and specific ‘stop off’ points supported to help migrating birds find shelter. We should be investing in saving the most vulnerable species, those endemic to our island and those that are part of our national identity. Reintroduce species where possible to help resolve centuries old issues due to extinction (Deer populations are too high). Then filter through that passion and desperation to every species we can save, we used to care so much about nature, from the books we wrote, to the interest we gave to other countries. Yes, it’s a huge issue rolling down the hill and it’s hard to stop. We can fix this though, there’s still a small amount of time, it just requires some effort. There’s so many things we can do but the biggest thing we can do is try
As always, I will never write an article about how change needs to happen without offering advice on how to step in, so if you’re thoughtful enough to make personal changes to keep these species living and thriving, read on! One way is through ethical consumerism, which is exactly what it sounds like – purchasing ethically, and we can take orangutans as an example. Sumatran orangutans are classified as critically endangered. These great apes live in the rainforests of the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, and while it makes for a great home for these animals, for us humans, it is a rich source of palm oil, an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees which is found in everything from our chocolate bars to our shampoos. So how can we counteract this? Always check your products before putting them in the basket, and if you don’t want to sit and read the tiny writing on the back of your products, head over to the nifty app linked below that’ll do all of the research for you. (Once you start looking you’ll find a lot of surprising food items contain palm oil, even ones not supposed to!!)
When seeking to help out a pressing cause, it all starts with education. Head over to the IUCN Red List linked below to do some research into your favourite animals and their stance in population numbers, or if you want to see the most endangered straight away, take a look at the WWF website to look at their list of most endangered species (which you
could then consider sponsoring!).
Thank you very much for taking the time to read, remember to stay safe, and stay educated on the vanishing species you know and love! And always keep in mind, while being aware of the species we have lost, don’t forget to look at all of the great success stories when it comes to reappearing (we’re looking at you, dodo bird).
Ecosystem services and nature based solutions blog: https://youthfornature.uk/2020/12/15/ecosystem-services-and-nature-based-solutions/
Ethical shopping resource:
IUCN Red list:
WWF endangered list
WWF success stories!
Monica’s Instagram: HERE