Skylark 'may be extinct within 10 years'

SKYLARKS, SONG thrushes and water voles, some of the most potent symbols of the countryside, will all vanish from Britain in the next few years, the World Wide Fund for Nature claims in a report today.

So rapid has been their recent decline that their extinction can now be foreseen, the WWF says, and it is unavoidable unless drastic steps are taken to save them.

In Doomsday for Wildlife, the fund predicts a swath of extinctions across the United Kingdom. It takes the rates of decline of seven familiar British wildlife species and projects them forward - in most cases they hit zero alarmingly soon.

Skylarks, which have been catastrophically affected by changes in farming practice, will disappear in 2009 if nothing is done to reverse their deterioration, the WWF says.

Song thrushes, which 25 years ago were one of our most common birds and are now increasingly rare, will go even earlier, by 2006. And the water vole - loved as Ratty in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in The Willows, but a species now much reduced by American mink which have escaped from fur farms - will disappear earlier still, by 2003.

Other species are also on the "disappearing list". The high brown fritillary butterfly will go in five years' time, while the pipistrelle bat will be extinct by 2007, the WWF says.

The grey partridge will be gone by 2011 while another butterfly, the marsh fritillary, is on course for extinction by 2020.

The causes of many of the declines are changes in agricultural techniques, such as the move to winter crops and greater pesticide use, and the change from haymaking to silage. With silage, the grass is cut in June while species are still nesting, rather than in August, when they are finished.

The WWF says that it has used the Government's figures to plot the rates of decline, and that the moves towards extinction are expected to accelerate over the next 20 years, with the effects of climate change, growing development pressures and the continued threat of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy.

The only way of halting the declines, it says, is to introduce as a matter of urgency added protection for the disappearing habitats that the species depend upon.

"The dramatic decline and extinction of our native species is a sad reflection of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and its inability to protect our natural heritage," said Carol Hatton, the planning officer for the WWF-UK. "We must have stronger legal protection before it's too late."

The WWF said it was disappointed that a new wildlife Bill was not introduced this year and is calling for wildlife legislation to be included in the 1999 Queen's Speech.

However, this will come too late for some species. The WWF is announcing today that a British bee, the short-haired bumble bee, is now extinct.

The last reported sighting was near Dungeness in Kent in the early Eighties and after two years of intensive survey work, no trace of the insect was found.

The total number of wildlife species to have become extinct in Britain this century is now 154, the WWF says.

These include flowers such as the alpine butterwort (1900) and summer lady's tresses (1954); insects such as the dainty damselfly (1953) and the Essex emerald moth (1991); and many other species, including mammals (the mouse-eared bat, 1990) birds (the Kentish plover, 1935) and fish (the burbot, some time in the Seventies).

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Financial Controller

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an experienced Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / New Business Development / Full or Part Time

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global Events and Exhibiti...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity for someone wi...

Recruitment Genius: Building Manager / Head Porter

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific