England’s Lost and Threatened Species

A report published by Natural England last week highlights the extent to which habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and now climate change have impacted on England’s species. “Lost Life: England’s Lost and Threatened Species” suggests that, amongst other figures, 24% of butterfly species and 22% of species of amphibian in England have been driven to extinction. The report represents the first ever audit of England’s lost and declining native species, collating all available data. It was the focus of a piece by Robin McKie, the Guardian’s science editor, in this Sunday’s Observer.

Interviewed for the article, Dr Tom Tew, Chief Scientist at Natural England, states that Natural England have in fact underestimated the loss of England’s wildlife; “we wanted to avoid repercussions of being alarmist…There are many more species we think we’ve lost but but we have not included them as they’re not officially extinct.”

The Natural England report identified the major driver of species loss over the last century as habitat loss. Speaking to the Observer, Dr Tew identified farming as a major offender within this, with ‘waves’ of species extinction coinciding with ‘revolutions’ in farming practice. Mechanisation and intensive landkeeping from 1900 onwards saw the first major swathe of extinctions in the countryside, followed by increasing applications of chemical pesticides and fertilisers from 1945 onwards, as food security became an increasing concern. By the middle of the 21st Century, Dr Tew suggests, climate change will account for the majority of future extinctions of English wildlife.

Farming is mainly to blame for the loss of our native plants and wildlife: Observer, Sunday 14th March