UK has worst-ranked biodiversity in the world

Hampstead Heath Pond surrounded by reeds.
London's green spaces, like Hampstead Heath need to be preserved in order to ensure there is no further decline in UK biodiversity. Photo credit: Nadya Salie

Sky News has revealed today that the “UK is one of the worst-ranked in the world for the poor state of its wildlife and countryside.”

In June 2022, a new study revealed the UK also ranked the lowest out of 14 European countries for connection to the natural world.

Interestingly, the study found that populations that have a large proportion of smartphone owners, had a more distant connection to nature. Whilst not a causation, it was indicated as a contributor to the decline of British biodiversity.

It was also found that older citizens were more likely to appreciate nature.

The lead author of the study, Professor Miles Richardson, explained that the study presented a uniquely British paradox: “There is that perception we’re a nation of nature lovers, but it hurts to be told that what this data strongly suggests is no, it’s not the case.”

Farming, building and industry” have been named as some of the causes that have contributed to the UK becoming depleted of nature. Pre-Industrial Revolution, the UK was home to more vast expanses of forests, ensuring an abundance of biodiversity and indigenous animals like red squirrels, beavers and wolves. All species that are now endangered or extinct.

The 2019 State of Nature report published staggering statistics that in the last fifty years, 40 million bird species in the UK have disappeared, as well as 15% of the total wildlife being threatened with extinction.

COP15, an international nature summit, is set to take place in Montreal, Canada this month. Talks aim to create a global treaty that will preserve biodiversity.

Similar to the Paris Agreement, leaders hope that the treaty will help slow the decline of biodiversity and prevent the extinction of species.

Experts emphasise that the treaty will be critical to starting to reverse the decline of wildlife by the end of this decade.

The head of the UK branch of WWF has called on Rishi Sunak to attend COP15.

His attendance may help in hearing solutions that could slow the decline of the UK’s biodiversity by 2030.

This year, the UK experienced the third warmest autumn (September to November) on record since 1884.

How does this culture of declining biodiversity affect London?

Whilst Sadiq Khan is trying to preserve London’s green spaces, developers hope to transform some of these green spaces into additional accommodation for the city’s growing population.

Earlier this month, the Guardian published an article about council estates in Elephant and Castle, and other London boroughs, where councils are planning to “cover green spaces with homes”.

Residents are against the proposed building plans, citing the importance of those green spaces for current residents. Especially in a pollution-filled, overcrowded city like London, where green spaces serve as a brief escape from city life.

If the UK hopes to revive its natural landscape, more investment and protection should be awarded to existing green spaces. And perhaps Sunak should get onto a plane to Canada, fast.

Words: Nadya Salie | Subbing: Yana Trup

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