Next year will see an important meeting to agree global biodiversity targets, but the UK says it won’t be publishing key data on wildlife and habitats
28 October 2021
Conservationists have criticised the UK government for its decision to temporarily halt publishing new data on the state of the country’s wildlife and habitats, on the same year as a landmark UN biodiversity summit.
Figures published today by the Department for Food, Rural Affairs and Environment (Defra) show a deteriorating picture for habitats, as well as for priority species such as otters and red squirrels, woodland birds, and butterflies reliant on specific habitats, such as the Lulworth skipper (Thymelicus action), pictured above.
The UK, like many other countries, has failed to arrest declines in biodiversity in recent years despite signing up to global targets to protect nature. In April 2022, countries are expected to renew their commitment to act, by agreeing new biodiversity targets for 2030 at the COP15 summit in Kunming, China.
However, Defra said that it will “pause” publishing new data on the state of UK biodiversity in 2022, to enable a “thorough review” of the indicators, such as the pressures from invasive species or the health of bird populations and other animals.
Mark Avery, a conservationist and former director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, says: “It seems like Defra’s response to a biodiversity crisis is to stop publishing the data that show it’s happening. That’s not very good, is it?”
Key indicators on birds, butterflies, priority species and habitats show the picture is getting worse. For example, a measure of farmland bird populations derived from 2019 data is down 45 per cent from its 1970 value, with smaller decreases seen for other birds. Other measures, such as the time volunteers spend on conservation activities, have risen, with a 61 per cent increase between 2000 and 2019.
New Scientist has contacted Defra for a response.
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