Report on failure to halt wildlife decline is buried


A report showing that Britain is failing to halt the declines of many of its highest-priority wildlife species and habitats, from the red squirrel, the juniper and the common skate to chalk rivers and coastal salt marshes, was "sneaked out" this week by the Government with no publicity, environmental campaign groups said yesterday.

More than twice as many conservation priority species and habitats are declining as are increasing across the UK, the report says, yet to find that study is virtually impossible without special knowledge. It was posted on the website of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), the Government's UK-wide wildlife advisers, on Thursday.

But it is buried deep in the site, there was no press release, and there is no reference to it or link to it on the website's front page. It is not even on the website of the relevant Government department, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The report – "The UK Biodiversity Action Plan: highlights from the 2008 reporting round" – was finished more than a year ago, and wildlife campaign groups have accused the previous Labour government of deliberately sitting on it, and the new Conservative-Lib Dem coalition Government of actively seeking to hide it. It concerns the progress – or lack of it – of the 500-plus UK species and habitats which have been the subject of Biodiversity Action Plans, or BAPs, set up since the Convention on Biological Diversity was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

The report shows that 24 per cent of the priority species are declining (88 species in total), as against 11 per cent which are improving. Typical continuing declines, besides red squirrels, plants such as juniper and fish such as the common skate, include the turtle dove, the twinflower and the brindled beauty moth. And 42 per cent of the priority habitats (19 habitats in total, including wildlife-rich upland chalk grassland and upland hay meadows) are in decline, as against 18 per cent which are improving.

"These results are so poor so that it comes as no surprise that they have been hidden away," Mark Avery, director of conservation for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said. "Can you imagine a report on the state of the nation's health, or economy, or education being ignored in the way that this report on the state of the nation's wildlife has been? It is vital that cuts in public spending don't harm the conservation of wildlife. We need to hear from the new government what measures it will take to reverse the declines."

Matt Shardlow, director of Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust, said: "The handling of this report, sat on for almost a year then quietly slipped out without transparent supporting data, suggests the Government is ashamed its recent track record. There is now an urgent need for Government to re-commit to working with the public to save and indeed restore our wildlife."

Dr Jeremy Biggs, director of the charity Pond Conservation, said the report had been "sneaked out". He added: "Freshwaters in Britain, and especially England, are in a parlous state: 75 per cent of our rivers and streams break EU directive ecological standards, and 80 per cent of ponds are in poor condition, and have declined in quality over the past 10 years."

The JNCC said it was merely "hosting" the publication of the report on its website for the secretariat of the standing committee of the UK Biodiversity Partnership, who are civil servants in Defra. A spokesman for Defra said the findings in the report had already been made available, at the 2009 UK Biodiversity Partnership annual conference, and that environmental organisations had been "kept informed" of the development of the "highlights" report.

The news is not all bad: some rare, threatened or even formerly vanished species are now doing well. The once-extinct large blue butterfly has been reintroduced and is flourishing (mainly in Somerset), and once very scarce birds such as the stone curlew and the bittern are rising steadily in numbers. Also, the ladybird spider has been reintroduced into Dorset after a captive-breeding programme.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?