NI is in relegation zone for nature

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New analysis from the Natural History Museum, in collaboration with the RSPB, has revealed that the UK languishes at the bottom of the league table of both G7 and EU countries for the amount of nature it has left.

In a global assessment, Northern Ireland was revealed as the 12th worst performing country for biodiversity loss with the Republic of Ireland ranking 13th lowest out of 240 countries.

New number-crunching from the Natural History Museum researchers using the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII) has revealed that:

* On a world scale, Northern Ireland is 12th worst for nature loss out of 240 countries;

* The UK is bottom of the pile for G7 countries for the fraction of biodiversity it has left;

* The UK comes third from bottom across all EU countries, ahead of only Ireland and Malta.

The BII is a rigorous approach to estimating biodiversity loss across an area using a combination of land use, ecosystem, species and population data to give a simple figure for ‘intactness’, that is, how much nature is left in a given area.

Northern Ireland reports a BII percentage score of 50 (12th from bottom) just 0.1 of a percentage behind the Republic of Ireland, which ranks 13th lowest.

Figures for the rest of the UK are no more promising and all fall within the bottom 12 per cent – England (BII 46.6 and 7th worst), Wales (BII 51.2, 16th worst) and Scotland (56.4, 28th worst).

Overall, the UK has a BII percentage of 50.3, compared with 65.3 for France, 67.1 for Germany, and 88.6 for Finland, which is among the best countries worldwide for retaining its natural biodiversity.

More than 40 million birds have disappeared from UK skies since 1970, and the crisis is showing no signs of slowing.

The 2019 State of Nature report, which both the Natural History Museum and RSPB contributed to, revealed:

n In Northern Ireland we’ve lost more than 80 per cent of the curlew population since 1987, with Fermanagh and the Antrim Hills the last remaining hotspots;

n 41 per cent of species assessed across the UK have decreased over the past 10 years;

n In Northern Ireland, 11 per cent of all wildlife is now threatened with extinction;

n Across the UK, butterflies are down 16 per cent since the 1970s; and

n Familiar birds, including house sparrows, have declined across the UK by more than half in the past 50 years.

The Natural History Museum and the RSPB believe the new league tables provide an urgent wake-up call that more and faster action is needed to reverse the terrible losses in wildlife seen in recent decades.

Natural History Museum Biodiversity Researcher Adriana De Palma, who worked on the analysis, said: “The way we use the land in our country has left its mark not just on the landscape, but on our biodiversity.

“If we want nature to recover in the UK and across the world then immediate action is required.

“The rapid disappearance of species and ecosystems is a global disaster – it requires a global solution.

“We must act but we must also avoid falling into the trap of preserving or improving our biodiversity levels at the cost of exporting losses to other countries.”

RSPB NI Director Joanne Sherwood said: “These league tables make for difficult reading and set the scene for the scale of the task before us.

“But we don’t have to continue like this; there is an opportunity to change and make the next decade count.

“Science-based analysis like this underlines that we must make urgent progress and investment if we are to avoid even more nature vanishing by 2030.

“We will be calling for 30 per cent of

land to be protected by 2030 as committed to by the Prime Minister earlier this week.

“The Prime Minister promised to work with the devolved countries of the UK, and RSPB will be seeking clarity from the Northern Ireland Executive as to how it plans to meet this important milestone.

“If we want nature in Northern Ireland to recover, transformative solutions to match the scale of the crisis must be put into action now.

“Only targets in law will have the necessary traction to secure the changes that are so desperately needed.”

RSPB NI recently highlighted the failed 2015-2020 NI Biodiversity Strategy and outlined key actions for improvements, including targets in law for nature’s recovery.

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