Many of us remember the concerning headline statistics that were presented in the 2013 ‘State of Nature’ report, published by the RSPB and other conservation organisations 3 years ago.
60% of species have declined over the past 50 years and 31% have declined strongly
14% of farmland flowering plants are on the red list
65% of upland species have declined in abundance
etc etc…The list was a long one and a rather depressing one. On September 14th this year State of Nature 2016 will be published which is expected to present news that is just as depressing. The report will highlight agricultural policy as a critical factor in the decline of many species, which is of key interest in the light of the current series of posts on thinkingcountry relating to Brexit and policy formulation. Richard Gregory, the RSPB’s head of species monitoring, recently told the Sunday Times that ”we assessed 1118 farmland species, including birds, mammals and plants, finding that 123 are facing extinction in the UK, which is a terrible statistic.”
Critically it is not farmers who should be blamed but the political and economic climate in which they farm. The intensification of practices has come about as a result of the profits in farming being so slim and the need in the eyes of some farmers to farm as much soil as they possibly can, limiting the dedicated area available for wildlife. The perception of a more complex countryside stewardship scheme also seems to be leading to fewer farmers taking advantage of dedicated conservation schemes, paid for by the state as part of pillar 2 payments. All of this is bad news for wildlife. A seed change is required. Brexit has the potential to bring this about, but if the focus of new policy is placed on cheap food above all else, rather than supporting ecosystem services and protection of wildlife, State of Nature 2019 (or 2020 or 2021 or 2022) is unlikely to present anything positive.