UK’s prized habitats remain in bad condition, government data shows

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Some of the UK's most iconic habitats and species, such as blanket bog and dormice, remain in a bad or poor condition, according to government data.

Some animals, such as the mountain hare, have actually seen their status downgraded due to their ongoing decline, according to the latest environmental assessment of the UK’s European designated sites, published earlier this month by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee  on the European Environment Agency’s data collection website, Eionet.

Under article 17 of the EU’s Habitats Directive, the UK is required every six years to report on the ecological condition of its legally protected, special areas of conservation (SAC), and the species that live in them.

According to the latest dataset, the UK ranks towards the bottom of the ecological rankings when compared to its European neighbours.

This is because more than 70% of the UK’s SAC’s, home to important habitats such as blanket bog, have been reported as being in a bad state while more than 10% are in a poor condition – these findings are almost identical to those sent to the commission in 2012.

The species that live in the UK’s SACs have fared worse.

The number of species in a good and favourable conditions across the UK has dropped by a full 10 percentage points between 2013 – 2018, while more than 26% of species are in a bad or poor condition, according to the data. 

There has also been a rapid jump in the number of species whose conservation status is no longer known, rising from 15% unknown in 2012 to 37% in 2018. 

These include species such as the dormouse which has been reported as having a long-term species decline by as much as 40%, while the overall trend in conservation status has changed from deteriorating in 2013 to unknown in 2019. This, the report states, is due to a change in the method in the way the dormouse is reported.

Last year, it emerged that of the 4,126 sites of special scientific interest in England – many of which are also classified as European protected sites –  47% have not been examined in the last six years, as is required by national monitoring guidelines set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. At the same, the body in charge of monitoring these sites, Natural England, has seen its budget slashed by as much as half since 2010. 

Kate Jennings, head of site conservation policy at the RSPB said the lack of environmental progress was alarming. 

“We have all heard our politicians talking up their commitments to tackle the nature crisis and to be world leaders for nature, so this new data is a timely if disturbing reminder that their performance is anything but world-leading, and that current levels of investment in, and action to save and restore our precious plants, animals and the habitats on which they depend are grossly inadequate,” she said.

ENDS has contacted DEFRA for comment.

To view the data sets in full click here



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