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UK's Biodiversity Crisis and Sustainability

Why the UKs Biodiversity crisis should put sustainable living at the forefront of our everyday actions.


Who else remembers those heady summer days listening to the hum of insects in fields that are bordered by seas of wildflowers and watching bees and other insects flying from one plant to the next. Or those long hot car rides that saw windshields covered in squashed insects and the inevitable grumblings that followed from the driver about having to clean the car?


When was the last time you stopped to think about any of that?  Have you noticed anything different recently?







I drove 400 miles the other day for business and I made a conscious effort to check my windscreen afterwards.  Three squashed bugs were all I found. Three.


Now, I appreciate that my windscreen is not a scientific study (and nor am I pretending it is) but it got me thinking that it was long overdue for me to write a blog about biodiversity and why it is crucial to us all.


Let’s start with the definition of biodiversity which, according to the Oxford dictionary means: the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable.


So the term biodiversity then essentially encompasses everything.  From our soil biomes (which we will write a blog post about another time!) to our plants, trees, insects, mammals, aquatic life and everything in between.


While many commentators talk about declining numbers of pollinators and flora as though these are somehow separate from us, but biodiversity loss (in all its forms) has a significant impact upon us as humans.





The decline of biodiversity.


What is the big deal about biodiversity - is it really at risk?


A report published by the House of Commons on 14th May 2024 tiled Biodiversity Loss states that “the UK has been highlighted as having some of the lowest biodiversity in Europe” and that the “UK only has 50.3% (of its biodiversity) remaining.”


Okay, but why does this matter? Maybe you don't like insects or you simply don't think losing a few of them can be such a bad thing? But it matters - a lot!


In just one document outlining the importance of protecting our biodiversity, In 2013, the Department for Environment Food 7 Rural Affairs reviewed their policy in respect of ‘Bees and other pollinators: their value and health in England.  The report identified that “Insects are pollinators of 80% of all plant species in Europe, including most fruits, many vegetables and some biofuel crops”


But it’s not just our food that is at risk without enough pollinators.  We are big fans of Dave Goulson here and in his book Silent Earth Averting the Insect Apocalypse, he describes how creatures such as starlings, frogs and even salmon who rely on insects in their diet and those top predators such as sparrow hawks and heron who prey on them, would all be impacted by the loss of this once readily available food source.  Here is a great review of his book by the Financial Times. 


This is a situation further supported by a report in 2022, published bi-annually by the WWF, that found an average drop of 69% in monitored vertebrate wildlife populations between 1970 and 2018. 


As if this wasn’t enough.  A report by University of Oxford on 29th April 2024, discusses new research that found “that damage to the natural environment is slowing the UK economy and could lead to an estimated 12% reduction in GDP… larger than the hit in GDP from the global financial crisis or Covid-19.”


Biodiversity is the sum of all its parts and one part of nature cannot be protected without protecting other parts too.  As an example, a single plant, called the common birds-foot trefoil is a food plant for 160 species of insects, which in turn becomes a meal for higher up the food chain.  The WWF say “On a single day in summer, one acre of wildflower meadow can contain 3 million flowers, producing 1 kg of nectar sugar. That’s enough to support nearly 96,000 honey bees per day.” Yet astonishingly, since the 1930’s the UK has lost 97% of our wildflower meadows.




If it's that bad, what are our Governments doing about it?


Well, it seems our Governments are legislating for change but in our opinion, they are doing no where near enough.


The Office for Environmental Protection stated on 18th Jan 2024 that the UK Government “remain largely off track to meet their environmental ambitions”  Their ambitions include:

  • Halt the decline in species populations by 2030, and then increase populations by at least 10% to exceed current levels by 2042

  • Restore precious water bodies to their natural state by cracking down on harmful pollution from sewers and abandoned mines and improving water usage in households

  • Deliver our net zero ambitions and boost nature recovery by increasing tree and woodland cover to 16.5% of total land area in England by 2050

  • Halve the waste per person that is sent to residual treatment by 2042

  • Cut exposure to the most harmful air pollutant to human health – PM2.5

  • Restore 70% of designated features in our Marine Protected Areas to a favourable condition by 2042, with the rest in a recovering condition.


 

In Scotland, Nature Scot, Scotland Nature Agency released a Scottish Governments news release In December 2022, stating “Protection for Scotland’s nature is set to be urgently scaled up, with 26 priority actions to restore Scotland’s natural environment and halt the loss of biodiversity by 2030”

 

The Scottish Government then released a public consultation in 2023 following which they published a Biodiversity strategy to 2040:Tackling the nature emergency.  Only time will tell if this is effective or not.

 

So, what can we do as individuals to help?


There are lots of things we can all do!


While it may seem an insurmountable challenge, if we all take steps – no matter how small – to play our part, we really can make a difference.

 

Here is just a selection of ideas (in no particular order) that can collectively help improve the UK’s declining biodiversity:

 

  • Avoid using plastic grass.  We are not going to go into the details here but the University of Plymouth did a great article about artificial grass.

  • Take part in no mow May or even better where space allows, leave a part of your lawn to become a permanent mini wildflower meadow.  (if taking part in no mow may, be mindful of any resting creatures before strimming).

  • For those with a garden, plant a variety of native flowers.

  • For those with only a balcony, doorstep or window box, even one native flower in a pot can help to create nature corridors for insects.

  • Stop using harmful pesticides.

  • If you have room and can safely do so, consider installing a nature friendly wildlife pond.  The Wildlife Trust have a great guide but there are loads of useful tips, books and videos available so be sure to do your research to make sure any pond is safe for both your family and wildlife.

  • Consider feeding your local birds.  The RSPCA has some useful information to get you started.

  • Think about hedgehogs. British Hedgehog Preservation Society has some really great information including Hedgehog Street where you can become part of the solution and monitoring of this ‘vulnerable to extinction’ creature

  • Think about what you are putting down your drains.  It has long been known that pollution is a threat to our nation’s waterways (and lets not get me started on UK Government releasing effluence into our rivers!) but there are things you can do at home to help reduce pollution.  Take a glance at the small print on many everyday cleaning products and you will see the little symbol that says harmful to aquatic life.  Instead, choose natural and plant based everyday cleaning products as well as natural and plastic-free laundry and dishwashing products.  Also be mindful of what you flush down the loo, avoiding plastic based wet wipes etc.

  • Think about other pollution too, to our air and land.  Can you reduce your reliance on a car and stop using single-use plastic products such as water bottles or single use food wrap for instance.

 

With our world being so interconnected, we can consider more broad changes to our lifestyles too:

 

  • Do you eat meat & fish? Can you source local produce where you can trace not only the animal welfare but the environmental impact of the products?  Eating minimally processed food also reduces the impact on the planet.

  • Can you reduce or stop your consumption of meat and fish altogether?  If so, great. But be mindful of substituting meat with products that are highly processed.  We are not about to get into a debate about vegan v meat eating diets, but the BBC have an informative article about things to consider if changing over to a plant-based.

  • Are you buying anything that includes timber?  If so, does it come from sustainable sources?

  • Can you buy second hand instead of new?

  • Can you repurpose or upcycle to give things new life?

 

There are so many varied ways in which you can support biodiversity and become more sustainable that we couldn’t possibly list them all here, but we hope that this blog post gives you some inspiration about how to take steps to not only support biodiversity but also progress your own sustainable journey.




If you're inspired to try making a new sustainable swap, why not take a look at our store for inspiration? www.thegreengreyhound.scot


 

 

As always, links are provided here to third party websites over which we have no control and you use them at your own risk. They were accurate and as described at time of publishing but be aware links may change or be removed over time by those who published the information. Links provided here are as a starting point for your own research and are not intended as 'definitive' information.

 

Published by TL on 21.5.24

 

 


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