Natural disaster: Government's new index reveals huge decline for Britain’s most endangered wildlife

‘FTSE Index’ for threatened species is launched as new analysis reveals a 60 per cent decline since the 1970s

A A A

Britain’s most endangered species have declined by almost 60 per cent since the 1970s, according to a new Government tool launched to track the nation’s wildlife.

Click image above to enlarge graphic

The official analysis looks at the how the populations of more than 200 native species – including birds, bats, moths, butterflies, hares and dormice – have changed over the last 40 years.

While the Government has previously published statistics for individual wildlife groups, this is the first time it has pulled together information on all the nation’s “priority” wildlife at the same time. The new index has described as a “FTSE Index for threatened wildlife” .

The new statistics reveal that priority species have declined on average by 58 per cent since 1970. The government has described this as a “statistically significant decrease”.

Around 70 per cent of the priority species have declined in the last forty years, according to the new data, which shows that moth species have faced the hardest time – declining in abundance by around 88 per cent.

Climate change and habitat loss are thought to be key factors, according to experts. Butterfly numbers have also declined by around 40 per cent compared to 1970 levels.

Richard Gregory, head of species monitoring at the RSPB, said the new indicator showed a “steady and very worrying decline”.

But he added that this could be improved with the new indicator. “What this new official biodiversity statistic does is act as an indicator of the health of our countryside. Every year the Government will be publishing these figures in the same way that they publish school league tables and crime statistics.”

He added: “We hope they will be a powerful new tool in the fight to halt the loss of our threatened native wildlife.” 

Thanks to conservation efforts, bird populations have fared better than the invertebrates, with population numbers increasing by an average of around 17 per cent over the last forty years.

The osprey, red kite, white-tailed eagle and marsh harrier have done particularly well, according to the index.  Mammals have also seen an estimated 16 per cent increase. 

Several species groups have not been included, including amphibians, reptiles, fish, fungi or plants.

But conservationists estimate that the latter are not faring much better, with 97 per cent of the UK’s wild flower meadows lost and one in five of all UK flowering plants species threatened with extinction.

Mr Gregory added that the RSPB will be working with the Government to ensure that data for these species can be included in future to “build a full picture of the state of our wildlife”.

The State of Nature report published earlier this year found that 60 per cent of UK species assessed were in decline, with over one in ten threatened with distinction.

Joan Edwards, head of living seas at The Wildlife Trust, said she hoped “this official indicator for priority species takes that one step further and ensures that the problems facing our native species are factored into Government decision-making”.

A Defra spokesperson said biodiversity indicators had seen improvements, including increasing bat and wintering water-bird populations, as well as air quality improvements and increased protection at sea.

She added: “More is being done to protect our wildlife than ever before and the latest indicators show that we are making improvements. We’ve invested £7.5m to create Nature Improvement Areas, more farmland is now managed for wildlife and more of our seas are protected.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea