Endangered Species in Britain
1150 species of plants and animals native to Britain are considered by the government to be ‘priorities for conservation action’. These include:
- Water voles, suffering from loss of habitat and competition and predation from the invasive North American Minx,
- The red squirrel, prey to ‘squirrel pox’, a disease introduced by the American grey squirrel,
- The European wild cat, which is breeding itself out of existence with the domestic house cat,
- The skylark, which has been affected by changing farming practices,
- The turtledove, which has been in decline for four decades,
- The harbour seal, numbers of which have declined by over 30%,
- The sand lizard, which has lost most of its habitat,
- Thenatter jack toad, also a victim of habitat loss, as well as acid rain.
Many other species of mammals, insects, crustaceans and even bivalves such as pearl mussels are also suffering.
What Action Is the Government Taking?
Fortunately, the British government has been active in this field for the better part of the last two decades.
It was the first government in the world to publish a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) in 1994, and subsequent revisions have been published on numerous occasions since this time.
These BAPs are internationally recognised programmes designed to protect endangered species and habitats. More recently DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has published its policies to protect biodiversity and ecosystems. The ministry acknowledged the threat to Britain’s endangered species and outlined its plans to protect and manage wildlife and areas of land and also to ensure that the UK meets its national and international obligations.
Laws against wildlife crime are being enforced, whilst laws, licenses and other agreements are being put in place to protect habitats and wildlife. Wildlife protection guidance is being simplified to make it easier for people to comply with the law and DEFRA is also implementing its Biodiversity 2020 strategy which is designed to stop biodiversity loss in England.Biodiversity 2020 takes into account the findings of the influential 2010 report, ‘Making space for nature’.
In addition to all this sterling work, DEFRA is also putting into implementation the Natural Environment White Paper of 2011, a part of which outlines ways in which the government and other organisations can better appreciate the benefits which the country receives from the natural world. Forty-eight Local Nature Partnerships have been set up to further this work.
The Role of Ecological Consultancies
A considerable problem experienced when formulating policies and deciding on action is lack of information. Fortunately, gaps in the records are being filled by the actions of leading ecological consultancies, such as Middlemarch Environmental, who are employed by companies to carry out thousands of protected species surveys each year.
These surveys are required so that the companies in question can comply with the guidelines and laws introduced by the government. Taken collectively, these surveys are greatly increasing our knowledge about endangered species and the steps that can be taken to protect them.