State of Nature 2


I was in North America when the last (and the first) State of Nature report was published but I wrote about it on my return. Last week I was at the launch of the latest version and I’ve already written about some of what went on there – but how about the report itself?

It’s an attractive report with a terribly damning message. There is some good news in here but not that much. Just look at the graphs for farmland, woodland, grasslands and the uplands – that’s overwhelmingly most of the terrestrial land cover of the UK – all are heading towards greater and greater biodiversity loss.  We are handing on a devalued stock of wildlife to future generations.

There is rather too much in the report about how wonderful the data are and rather too little on what needs to be done about it. Imagine a UK State of Crime report which was heavier on how perfectly crime is measured these days and rather light on how we are going to fix it.  I suggest it wouldn’t go down too well.

But this time around all the biggest environmental and conservation organisations are involved – which is very good. And there was a fair smattering of Chief Execs showing their faces at the launch too.

It’s quite interesting to see how prominently the report is mentioned by different organisations now, a few days after its launch:


RSPB – home page, flashy graphics, clearly a lot of thought has gone into it.

Wildlife Trusts – very good – front page news and links to the same flashy infographic as RSPB.

Plantlife – on the home page with a link to Trevor Dines’s marvellous speech – read it!

BTO – on home page with some sensible words.


Fair to middling:

Butterfly Conservation – not bad. Link from home page although regarded as a news item under much bigger money-raising items.

Buglife – a link from the home page to a news item.

WWT – a link from the home page to a news item.



National Trust – as with anything serious, it is quite difficult to find anything on the NT webpage and I can’t see a link to the actual report. It’s a rather semi-detached approach at partnership from NT.

Woodland Trust – I can’t find a mention anywhere. Not so much semi-detached as completely detached.

WWF-UK – nothing I can see on this subject. I didn’t expect to find anything. WWF doesn’t really do UK nature any more. Nice of them to put their logo on the report though.

FoE – I can’t find anything.

Greenpeace – I can’t find anything.

So it won’t take long for government to see through the apparent unanimity of the environment and wildlife movement on how important the state of nature is.


The question that this report raises, of course, is what are we all going to do about this sad state of affairs – and are we going to do it together as an environment movement based working together or can’t these organisations get together any more? Is the whole sorry state of nature too overwhelming, and is the environmental movement so fragmented and divided, that this challenge will be ducked and we’ll have another report in five years time telling us how bad it is?

imageThere are two main threats to wildlife at the moment and Brexit (which means Brexit) provides an increase in threat level in one area and an opportunity, if handled well, or a threat, if government doesn’t listen, in the other. The future of so-called protected areas is always a worry and our leaving the EU (for Brexit means Brexit – whatever that means) adds to the already dire state of affairs. This is the time for us, or our NGOs on our behalf, to demand that the UK (yes, perhaps differently in all four countries) has a proper network of protected areas that are fantastic places for wildlife. This is not about protection of our assets but enhancement of them. We need National Parks that are rich in wildlife and which are wild places (yes, that may involve dollops of rewilding all over the place) and we need hundreds of local wildlife sites upgraded to SSSIs as much for their potential as for their current wildlife value. We want big areas taken out of agriculture completely or very largely and we want that in order to protect wildlife and take it out of the hands of agriculture and game shooting which will keep it poor for ever if we have to negotiate with them. Government should use all that cash we will soon have after Brexit completely to refurbish our wild places and make them rich in wildlife again.

And second, of course, we need a much better system of agriculture everywhere. One which is cheaper for the taxpayer, supports those farmers who need support and delivers more wildlife everywhere (and cleaner water, less flooding, more carbon storage as well). My scheme is £1bn for the taxpayer, £1bn for farmers and £1bn given to farmers in return for nature. That gives something to everyone except those richest landowners (including some NGOs) who really don’t need or deserve my taxes to keep in business.

State of Nature 2016 came out at exactly the right time to hit government with some exciting new ideas and it failed to take that opportunity. No doubt plans were already well advanced and agreements had been reached, and details set in stone but, if so that is an indictment of the 50+ organisations that produced this report.

The report is good, the collaboration looks quite good, but the need is far greater. This is a time when the UK environmental movement will be tested. Is it going to rise to the challenge?


15 Replies to “State of Nature 2”

  1. Surely the launch of a report like this needs to be backed up with a high profile expression of public outrage and concern? Otherwise it becomes just another exercise in documenting the facts and drawing them to the attention of decision makers (all good and necessary), but without demonstrating public support for change.

    If all the organisations with their names on this report got just 10% of their supporters to do something that translates all those statistics into personal expressions of loss, then the excellent science that’s gone into it would be backed up actions that might just wake politicians up a bit.

  2. How refreshing! At last some focus on a genuinely important problem that we can do something about. The focus, so far, by the environmental movement on anthropogenic global warming has been, and continues to be a huge distraction. If a small fraction of the political and financial resources spent on the impossible task of influencing global climate were spent on the issues outlined in the State of Nature Report, then we might get somewhere.

    1. ‘huge distraction!’ ‘impossible task’.
      Only the most important crisis humanity has ever faced and the issues aren’t separate.

      From the report
      ‘Our review found that climate change was the second most significant driver of change in the UK’s wildlife over recent decades’

      I would be interested in your source and figure for ‘financial resources spent’.

  3. Unless they have updated it, it is incredibly difficult to find the actual report to download on the RSPB site. The Scottish report was a lot easier to find.
    BirdGuides news item doesn’t have a direct link either.
    Mark has it in his first link.

      1. Yes Mark gave it as his first link.
        I think they may have updated it or you must be very clever.
        It wasn’t linked to from the main press release and wasn’t in the publications page.
        I didn’t make it up to annoy you. I can’t even remember how i found it.
        It they want people to read it it should be a one click affair.
        It was only because i knew it must be there that i was able to find it. It took maybe 5-10 minutes.

          1. Not rude at all, Anand. I share your frustration frequently in these situations!
            I have two well “thumbed” bookmarks: Mark Avery’s and Martin Harper’s blogs. On the day of publication Martin’s blog required one click to access the download. Always worth checking Mark’s successor!

  4. All well and good but last week, ahead and during the launch, nearly all of the radio airtime which I heard was given to discussion between one person from a wildlife NGO and the NFU, who rolled out the same old stuff. Whilst the media continues to not enable debate around all of the issues (even agriculture has several facets, as upland and lowland agriculture has different issues, pressures and possible positive solutions) then we will get nowhere as usual.

    Does anyone remember ‘The response for nature’? probably not – it had a very low-profile launch in late 2015, responding to the previous state of nature and what is/could/should be done across a partnership of NGOs somewhere between state 1 and state2…..almost a year later and still nothing.

    ps, there are 5 reports, a UK one and one for each of the 4 parts of the UK. they are hard to find on rspb who seem to want to just direct everyone to their infographic page, but the BTO link cited above is the best as it lists all 5 reports. there is also a download of data which has been made freely available, too.

  5. “rather too little on what needs to be done”

    I thought that too. But as it says on the Can it’s about the State of Things. Perhaps we expect too much of the messengers. I guess it was never their intention and in any case beyond their scope to provide any answers. Any road up it was however a great example of what can be achieved with Citizen Science – IMHO – and although it doesn’t reveal much we didn’t already know it does bring it all together.

    The Drivers of Change bit has some stuff that seems a bit odd to me. Hydrological Change and Urbanisation are shown as separate factors when, over the 43 years covered by the report, there has been more than a bit of change to the hydrology of catchments caused by urbanisation so at the very least the latter interacts with the former. Low intensity management is reported as one of the beneficial factors for wildlife but the size of the red/green arrows of relative impact show equal amounts of positive vs negative impacts. What are we to infer from that? Stop doing it? Doesn’t provide much encouragement for Pasture Fed Livestock, Agroforestry, Agroecology movements in general, who already face a wall of indifference from DEFRA, NFU, etc., yet are trying to do something to halt the decline in the State of Everything by adopting a Soil Up approach.

    1. The drivers of change stuff is based on a much longer paper published under open access in the journal PLOS in the winter……well worth looking up but very hard work reading. The full url to find it should be in the references in SoN UK report

  6. I wonder if Merricks has read this part although it is common knowledge.

    ‘Using species reintroductions as a conservation tool Some species have suffered such catastrophic declines, with local or even national extinctions, that the only remaining conservation option is targeted action to reintroduce them to their former range. There are many questions to consider before this course of action can be undertaken, not least assessing why and how a species became locally extinct in the first place, and ensuring that those threats are no longer prevalent

    If DEFRA stick to this then the Hen Harrier re-introduction cannot be allowed, not for decades anyway. With hindsight the re-introduction of Red Kites particularly near grouse moors shouldn’t have been allowed either.
    I am pretty sure HH lowland re-introduction will go ahead anyway. DEFRA and HOT will call it a trial and get around the condition that way. Then they will ‘roll out’ the trial.

    1. I must be thick. It has just dawned on me that licensed brood persecution is exactly the same as a re-introduction just on a smaller scale. It cannot be allowed because of the same condition.
      In fact if the issue wasn’t devolved it would be a national re-introduction not as it is now a regional one. Scottish estates would want to move broods to lowland England.

  7. Is it possible to deduce from recent events (eg the efforts of Mark and Chris Packham and others) that we need a more forceful organisation to represent us. It appears that many of the existing NGOs have Boards or rules that either prevent them or make it hard for them to be as outspoken. There seems to be a real desire by many now to say enough is enough, so is it not possible to start a new organisation that these people may well move their support to. Many of us have expressed frustration at how frightened many NGOs seem to be of this right-wing government,but really we need to be bolder not more timid! I am sure we already can count on quite a lot of us to act as volunteers to help and even the threat of doing such a thing might make the others wake up a bit.

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