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
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
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: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower