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Wildlife has declined ‘nearly a quarter over five decades’

The latest State of Nature report shows the erosion and loss of nature in Scotland continues.

Report: Wildlife has declined over the past five decades. Pixabay

Scotland’s wildlife population is in a state of consistent decline, a new report has warned.

70 wildlife groups joined forces with government agencies for the first time, to analyse data about nearly 6500 species across land and sea for the latest ‘State of Nature’ report.

It found that in the five decades since monitoring began, there has been a 24 per cent decline in “average species abundance” in Scotland. 

In other words, when averaged across all wildlife groups, the report says there is an “unabated” decline.

The report reflects a mixed picture; since recording began, almost half of all Scottish species (49 per cent) have decreased, but 28 per cent have increased.

Of the 6413 species found in Scotland, 11 per cent have been classified as threatened with extinction from Scotland.

Moths have almost halved in quantity, there has been a more modest reduction in butterflies (9 per cent) and some of Scotland’s globally significant seabirds have been found to be in major decline.

Surface feeding birds like kittiwake, or species that rely on them to find prey, such as Arctic skua, have been particularly affected, with declines of 72 per cent and 77 per cent respectively.

But experts say that it’s not too late to act to help protect wildlife and preserve them for the future.

Work is ongoing to preserve and restore Scottish peatlands, with experts saying this can tackle carbon storage and biodiversity challenges. They say that needs to be extended to habitats and species.

Jo Pike, chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “This report clearly sets out the grave threats to Scotland’s wildlife. Nearly half of the country’s species have declined, and more than one in ten are threatened with extinction.

“We cannot afford for these trends to continue, particularly in a climate emergency. While time is running out to reverse biodiversity loss we must also recognise that positive action is possible.

“Thousands of people and organisations – from volunteers and community groups to farmers, land managers, businesses and many others – are already working across Scotland to make a difference.

“To reverse the loss of biodiversity and address climate change it is vital that we increase our investment in nature.

“This means taking urgent, strategic action to protect and restore natural habitats on land and sea, green our towns and cities, and transform our relationship with the natural world. Nature is our life support system, we owe it to future generations to support its recovery.”

Paul Walton, lead author on the Scotland report, said: “This report draws on the best available data on Scotland’s biodiversity, produced by partnerships between conservation NGOs, research institutes, government and agencies, and thousands of dedicated volunteers.

“The output confirms that, averaged across species, the erosion and loss of nature in Scotland continues.

“But it also highlights how much we still have to lose, and some of the incredible work that is already under way to hold on to it.

“Scotland is uniquely placed to set a global example in responding to the twin climate and ecological crises.

“We must invest our ingenuity to integrate policies, to devise complementary solutions, to cooperate across sectors and tackle these twin global crises simultaneously.

“We must, critically see a step change in how we resource the conservation of all our biodiversity and develop nature-based approaches to climate change.

“If we do so, we can lead the way towards the transformative change that nature demands.”

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