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Serious Declines in UK Wildlife Could Impact Crops

24 May 2013
Rothamsted Research

UK - A collaborative report has shown that, of 3,148 species studied in the UK, 60 per cent are in decline.

The State of Nature report has, for the first time, pooled the resources of 25 wildlife and research organisations to provide an unparalleled assessment of the overall state of nature in the UK.

Rothamsted Research, the oldest agricultural research station in the world, particularly contributed to assessments of how farmland wildlife has fared.

Rothamsted scientists reported declines amongst three quarters of the UK’s carabid beetle species.

These declines are of concern because such beetles have beneficial functions in farmland as predators of crop pests and by feeding on seeds which may help to control weeds seeds.

Long-term Rothamsted data also highlighted serious losses in the biodiversity of UK moths in the report, with two-thirds of species declining.

David Brooks, an agroecologist at Rothamsted, said: “This report provides a step advance in our overall understanding of how UK’s nature is changing. In particular, long-term studies at Rothamsted Research have been invaluable for highlighting large declines in farmland biodiversity.

"Moth declines are worrying because so many species are involved, which means a significant part of our countryside’s biodiversity is under threat. Declines in beneficial carabid beetles are also of concern because if we want to move towards farming systems with fewer chemical inputs conserving the biodiversity of organisms which are likely to contribute to crop productivity is part of the key to success.”

NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said: “No farmer will welcome news that wildlife populations are deteriorating. Indeed, many farmers and visitors to the countryside will be surprised about the report’s findings given the huge effort farmers now place on managing the environment.

“For example our work with the RSPB and other conservation bodies on the Campaign for the Farmed Environment has brought over 200,000 hectares of land into positive conservation management since 2009. This in addition to over 50,000 agreements farmers have in the Government’s environmental stewardship.

“The State of Nature reports that wildlife populations have changed significantly over the last 50 years. But no area of our economy or society has stood still over this same time period, and farming and the countryside are no different.

"Urbanisation, climate change and changing land use have all had their impact as the report argues. The challenge the report offers is to find ways in which farming can continue to produce high quality British food, be a positive force in the countryside and support the nation’s wildlife.”

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

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