Birds and butterflies 'suffering severe decline' on farmland in UK
Published 23/07/2015 | 12:37
Farmland birds and butterflies are suffering significant declines in numbers, a wide-ranging set of environmental measures has shown.
Butterflies including gatekeepers, large skippers, small coppers and small tortoiseshells are in severe decline on agricultural land, while breeding farmland bird populations hit their lowest recorded level in England in 2013, having more than halved since 1970.
The Natural Environment Indicators published by the Government show better news for England's seas, with recent improvements in the number of larger fish in the North Sea and marine litter, after a long-term deterioration in conditions.
But for many of the more than 30 environmental indicators there is as yet no short-term or long-term assessment of what is going on, including the number of visits by children to natural places and rural and urban air pollution.
The indicators are published under the Government's strategy for valuing nature in England, by protecting and improving the natural environment, boosting the green economy, reconnecting people and nature and showing international leadership.
They examine short and long-term trends for species in the countryside, water quality, habitats, natural resources, the quality of the environment and health, getting people engaged with nature and integrating environmental concerns into business activity.
Breeding farmland birds and butterflies are declining in both the long and short term, while woodland birds and butterflies have also seen numbers fall in past decades, and more recently have shown little or no change.
In 2013, breeding woodland birds in England reached their lowest recorded level, more than a quarter (28%) below 1970 levels.
Butterfly populations have tumbled by almost a half (48%) since 1990 as a result of loss of open spaces in woods and a lack of woodland management.
Water quality in rivers, canals, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters has deteriorated in the past few years, with fewer bodies of water being assessed as in good or high condition since 2009.
But the proportion of fish stocks being fished sustainably is up, as is the amount of carbon being stored by England's forests, while populations of bats and wintering and breeding sea birds have all increased in the long term.
Trends for the condition and extent of important habitats, the value of services woodlands supply, the proportion of people visiting the natural environment several times a week, and the percentage of companies that are taking environmental concerns into account have not been assessed.
Neither have the number of days of moderate or high air pollution in either towns or the countryside, or the numbers of early deaths caused by poor air quality.