If you thought biodiversity looked bad in the UK, Europe isn’t looking any better

From BirdLife International

Following the news of the UK’s disappearing biodiversity, a new report from the EU does not give great grounds for hope. Europe’s nature is disappearing under unsustainable farming and expanding towns.

The European Environment Agency’s and the European Commission’s new report on the State of Nature in the EU is released. This is an important document and dataset that will help guide decision- and policy-making in many sectors over the next decade.

The State of Nature report gathers the information reported by Member States under the Birds and Habitats Directives. It showcases analyses and insights based on this information and describes the state of nature in the EU between 2013 and 2018. This includes the EU population status of birds and the conservation status of habitats and non-bird species, and the very serious pressures and threats all face. It also highlights the successes and shortcomings of current measures being undertaken in nature conservation, and the urgent need for restoration to improve specific species and habitats. The report also looks at the contribution of the Natura 2000 network to protecting and conserving habitats and species, and evaluates the EU’s progress towards Target 1 and Target 3 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.

State of Nature in the EU – overall highlights

Overall the statistics in the State of Nature report tell a sorry tale. It shows that with regard to birds, four in ten bird species in Europe have a poor or bad status, with almost a third of all bird species experiencing continuous declines over the last 12 years.

At the top of the list of the pressures and threats responsible for this sad state of biodiversity in the EU are unsustainable agriculture and forestry practices, urbanisation and pollution. Each of these threaten species and habitats, and when combined can cause even greater damage. Looking at birds in particular, unsustainable agriculture tops the bill, closely followed by urbanisation and then unsustainable forestry practices.  Many EU protected species and habitats, such as the saker falcon, the Danube salmon, grasslands and dunes, face an uncertain future unless more is urgently done to reverse the situation.

On top of this, environmental laws and policies such as the EU Nature Directives, are often not well implemented in certain Member States. The fact that eight in ten habitats and over six in ten non-bird species which are protected under Annex I of the Habitats Directive as well as four out of ten bird species in the EU have a poor or bad EU status means that not enough is being done to ensure their protection and conservation and it is high time for everyone to up their nature conservation game if we are to survive.

Reasons to worry – genuine and non-genuine changes, top pressures and threats causing declines in birds

Regarding birds, initially the situation could be seen as more positive than for other species groups or for habitats, but these groups are not comparable as only species and habitats protected on Annex 1 of the Habitats Directive were assessed compared to all birds species.  Around half of the bird species in the EU having a good EU status, however, this proportion is actually slightly smaller than that from the last reporting period (State of Nature in the EU 2007-2012). Reflecting this, the proportion of bird species in poor and bad status has slightly increased in the last six years, now reaching 40%; and although some of this change is due in part to a mix of changes in data quality and survey and analysis methods, genuine species deterioration is also a key factor.

Examples from case studies

Not all the news is bad however. Conservation efforts all over the world have shown that species can bounce back from the brink and conservation in the EU is no exception. Thanks to huge policy and on-the-ground conservation effort including LIFE projects, the elaboration of international Species Action Plans, international Memoranda of Understanding on specific species under the Bonn Convention for Migratory Species, and protection under the Natura 2000 Network, species like the aquatic warbler that almost entirely disappeared from the EU as fens and mires were drained, ploughed over and lost to agriculture, have seen population improvement since 2011. The red kite has made a spectacular comeback after suffering huge declines in the past due to persecution, pesticides and changes in agricultural practices. Although still small, thanks to supplementary feeding and specific captive breeding and reintroduction schemes, the population of bearded vultures is also on the increase in the EU.

These examples show however that a huge amount of resources need to be invested to improve these species’ plight. Nature restoration will always be more demanding and expensive than maintaining nature in a good state, and it is therefore doubly important, not just on an ecological level but  economically, to make the most of the healthy patches of nature we have left and make sure we do not lose or degrade them further.

Nevertheless, we are overall losing species on a large scale and fast. Birds of prey for example, such as harriers and falcons, are seeing their numbers decline, with half of the harrier species present in the EU and six out of ten falcon species having decreasing population trends.

Seabirds are also suffering from an increasing number of pressures and threats. Although some seabirds have improved in status, most are not only pressured by invasive species and bycatch, but also by disturbance from recreational activities and marine harvesting of fish and shellfish, the latter which also impacts them by decreasing the overall availability of food, and all of which have led to many seabirds species having a poor or bad EU status.  

This is why we need to take immediate action to tackle the most widespread and concerning threats to biodiversity. On top of these widespread threats, more species-specific or upcoming threats like those specific to marine species, or those related to climate change can quickly tip the scales and add to the myriad of other widespread threats already present. Governments need to take action immediately and efficiently if we do not want to see the trends we are seeing now precipitate our European species and ecosystems to the point of no return.

The State of Nature in EU and the EU biodiversity Strategies

It is clear from the new State of Nature report that the aims of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 have not been achieved, with only the non-bird species group almost meeting the set target whilst the habitats and birds targets are still well behind.

The new EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Farm to Fork Strategy, both of which are core elements of the European Green Deal set new ambitious targets for the coming decades and bring hope in the form of new goals and targets. The biodiversity strategy in particular, with its new aims to strengthen and enlarge the existing network of protected areas, and restore and maintain healthy ecosystems, will help ensure that bird and non-bird species alike will continue to have a sustainable home in the EU.

Download the complete report State of nature in the EU: Results from reporting under the nature directives 2013-2018 here


UK on course to miss most biodiversity targets

From The Guardian

The UK is failing on its long-term biodiversity targets and seeing “relentless” declines in wildlife, according to UK Government data that shows public sector investment in conservation falling in real terms by 33% in five years.

Out of 24 biodiversity indicators, 14 showed long-term decline, including continued deterioration of UK habitats and species of European importance, as well as a decline in priority species, according to the 2020 UK biodiversity indicators report, which gives the most comprehensive overview of the action the government is taking on the most pressing wildlife issues.

“The picture is a painfully familiar one of relentless decline in species and habitats,” said Dr Richard Benwell, chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link. “Unfortunately, there were no surprises in this report – I would have liked to be surprised. It’s an alarmingly familiar picture.”

A lot of the data was used in the RSPB report that found the UK government failed on 17 out of 20 UN biodiversity targets agreed in Japan in 2010. The data was also part of the 2019 State of Nature report, which found that populations of the UK’s most important wildlife had fallen by 60% in 50 years.

The report showed that in 2018/2019, government funding for UK biodiversity was 0.02% of UK gross domestic product. “One thing that jumps out is the rather worrying decline in public sector spending on biodiversity,” said Prof Richard Gregory, head of monitoring conservation science for RSPB. “With the climate and biodiversity crisis, nature-based solutions are part of what we should be doing, so it’s crazy we’re not investing in this.”

Natural England, which is sponsored by Defra, has seen its budget cut by £180m since 2008, and continued cuts are having a huge impact on the protection of habitats, conservationists warn. “It’s a real ski-slope decline in funding. Government agencies cannot act to do the really great things they want to do … They need to put money there to have real action,” said Gregory.

Generally, habitat “specialist” species do worse than generalists; farmland birds have declined by 55% since 1970 and woodland birds have declined by 29%. These declines are not just historical – numbers have continued to drop in the past five years.

The report did show some improvement in the designation of protected sites, such as an increase in sustainably managed forests and fisheries.

Conservationists say that if the new Environment Land Management programme is designed well, it could bring a significant boost to nature funding, but it is not being rolled out until 2024. The issue has been worsened by the significant financial losses many charities have faced and projects being put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This report shows just how far we have to go,” said Green Party peer Natalie Bennett. “Not only are we running out of time to tackle the climate emergency, there is also increasingly little time left to reverse this catastrophic decline in nature and wildlife.”

Joan Edwards, director of public affairs at the Wildlife Trusts, said: “There’s a loss of woodland and farmland birds, long-term decline of pollinators, and the condition of important habitats is deteriorating. We need investment and action on the ground to put nature into recovery and we need it now.”

A Defra spokesperson said the report showed positive signs in terms of the contribution of UK forests in mitigating climate change and the increase in bat populations. “However, there remain huge ongoing pressures on the country’s biodiversity, and many of our native species are in decline, which is why we must continue to act to restore and enhance nature.”

Read the report UK Biodiversity Indicators 2020 here 

Join The Global Bird Weekend 17 & 18 October 2020

From Global Birding

Global Birding would like to have as many people as possible join in the Global Bird Weekend 17 and 18 October.

Covid-19 Lockdown meant many people became more aware of their local natural surroundings.  They want everyone to celebrate the love for nature and birds across the world in their own local areas or “patch”.

Part of the weekend event will include eBird’s October Big Day when it is aimed to create a world record for the largest number of birds seen by the greatest number of people on this peak migration weekend.

It is hoped that at least 25,000 participants will go out birdwatching on Saturday 17 October 2020 and report what they see using eBird. The goal is to record more than 6,000 bird species!

How do I take part?

Global Birding are working in association with eBird, which is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA. 

  1. Get an eBird account – this is free to all users
  2. On Saturday 17 October 2020, go out birdwatching and enjoy what you see – with family, friends, groups or just take time out on your own (register here).
  3. Enter what you see and/or here on eBird
  4. Watch the sightings roll in on eBird’s Global Bird Weekend October Big Day page
  5. Keep posting your photos and videos during the day on our social media pages #globalbirdweekend #globalbirding
  6. On Sunday 18 October 2020, add your own photos, videos, field sketches and messages to share your experiences with the global audience. Keep up to date on Global Birding’s social media pages over the weekend and beyond #globalbirdweekend #globalbirding,

This year, Global Birding is supporting BirdLife International’s vital conservation project to stop the illegal trade in birds. Did you know there are now more birds in cages in Java than in the country’s natural habitat?

October volunteer activity

Sunday 11th October 2020 –– Mourier Valley, St John 10.00-12.30

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers

****Please note that due to Covid-19, you will need to book a place to attend this task through Eventbrite (here) and numbers will be restricted to a total of 35.

It is also advised that you bring your own tools, work gloves and a mug for refreshments****

Task Following on from last February’s task of tree planting at Mourier Valley, we’re asking the JCV to assist again this year, by helping us cut and clear the bracken covered valley edges ahead of this season’s tree planting. We will also be piling the bracken litter to be used as mulch when the trees are planted

Please meet at the car park at 10am to allow us to walk over to the site and start work for 10.30am. We will finish for 1pm.

If you have any questions, or if you wish to be added to the Jersey Conservation Volunteers email list, please contact either Julia Clively (tel: 441600; j.clively@gov.je) or Jon Parkes (tel: 483193; jon.parkes@nationaltrust.je).

The site Meet at Sorel Point top public car park (Jersey phone directory Map 3, R2) and Google maps here 

Parking Sorel Point top public car park

Tools needed Due to Covid restrictions we are discouraging the sharing of tools and ensuring that any borrowed tools are disinfected before and after the event. With this in mind, if you have your own sickles, rakes, forks or gardening gloves, please bring them along.

Clothing needed Please dress for the weather and bear in mind how exposed the site is on the North Coast. Sturdy boots are recommended as we will be working on some sloped gradients. 

Children All are welcome, young or old although we do ask that volunteers under 16 years of age are directly supervised by a parent or guardian.

Refreshments Kim will be setting up her pop up café to treat you all when work finishes at about 12.30.