Background to the issue
It is common knowledge that our climate is changing, but perhaps less well known is the fact that nature is also in a state of crisis. Unfortunately, the wildlife around us is suffering due to our lifestyles and behaviours. Animals are going extinct at such a rate (200 species a day) that we are believed to be in the midst of the sixth mass extinction!
The human impacts affecting our wildlife in the UK have been well documented by a series of ‘State of Nature’ reports. These are produced annually by a collaboration between countless conservation and research organisations, which bring important findings of extensive research to light. The most recent report indicated that:
- Species population sizes (abundances) have declined by an average of 13% (since 1970).
- The land area that species occupy (distribution) has reduced by an average of 5% (since 1970).
- 41% of all UK species have reduced in abundance (since 1970).
- 15% of all UK species are thought to be threatened (with extinction). This includes 111 mammals/ birds (vertebrates) and 405 bugs (invertebrates).
- 2% of UK species are considered extinct.
In terms of how we solve these issues, the report provides a brilliant springboard by outlining the causes of nature destruction. The findings show that climate change, pollution, urbanisation, woodland management, hydrological change and invasive non-native species (INNS) are all major players in the destruction of nature. However, it reveals the biggest cause of biodiversity loss in the UK to be intensive agricultural land management (farmland). This is because farmland takes up 69% of the England’s land area and has transformed our natural landscapes, removing vital habitats (particularly woodland).
The removal of native woodlands has been especially damaging for our insects and birds. The word ‘Insectageddon’ (sadly) accurately describes the current state of our insect populations which face unrivalled declines. This loss of minibeasts is unsettling since they perform functions (e.g. pollination) that are necessary for the survival of the living world!
Finally, destructive fishing practices (such as longlining and bottom trawling) are responsible for mass destruction of marine habitats and the loss of innumerable marine species (650,000 whales, dolphins and seals are killed accidentally every year!).
What can we do?
Clearly, we need to dramatically change how we interact with and perceive nature. Many of the changes we need to see must come from policies (e.g. Agri-environment schemes (AES) which combat agricultural destruction) which we may not feel able to impact. However, we can influence these policies and express our support by signing/ creating petitions, emailing MPs and raising awareness both physically and via social media platforms.
Furthermore, the power of personal changes to revive local wildlife shouldn’t be underestimated, especially when we share our actions with others. A nursery setting can be easily adjusted to support wildlife whilst providing a great platform for sharing knowledge. We recommend inviting wildlife into nursery gardens, by providing a variety of habitats (e.g. insect hotels, hedgehog houses, water bodies, leaving areas to grow wild) and food sources (e.g. bird feeders, pollinator friendly plants). And we hope that you can encourage families and staff to do the same at home.
We can also support more distant (but equally important) ecosystems by visiting national trust sites and protected areas, supporting wildlife charities (e.g. Marine Conservation Society) and staying informed and speaking out about current environmental issues (e.g. Amazon rainforest fires). We can even volunteer with some of these organisations and become ambassadors for the environment! Finally, we can change destructive practices (e.g. pesticide use, bottom trawling) by changing our consumption patterns. For example, we can to stop eating seafood caught by unsustainable methods.
Articles and websites to widen your knowledge
Books to widen knowledge
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
The convention on Biodiversity was created in 1993 as a global solution to the world’s declining biodiversity (variety of living organisms). It is an international treaty, which legally binds all participating countries to abide by its goals. It is often considered the basis of international sustainable development. The main goal is to ensure a sustainable future for all, by enacting three objectives.
- Conserving biodiversity.
- Using biodiversity sustainably.
- Sharing the benefits of resources (particularly genetic resources) equally and fairly.
The CBD is unique in that it monumentally brings 193 countries together with the common goal of improving the state of the planet. For this reason, it provides considerable hope for the future, however, the UK needs to work harder to meet its targets.
IUCN Red List Categories for UK species
This figure is featured in the 2019 State of Nature report and shows the IUCN category for each group of species.
Eco Schemes which support this topic
The Eco-Schools programme is an ideal way for schools to embark on a meaningful path towards improving the environment in both the school and the local community while at the same time having a life-long positive impact on the lives of young people and their families.
There is now a new Early Years Pathway. Click image above to link to their website.
SchemaPlay is a not for profit Community Interest Company that was set up in 2018 to produce publications, resources and training opportunities for Early Childhood Education. We offer bespoke training, consultancy and early childhood research and development. Our current projects include the creation of training resources to support practitioners in improving learning and developmental outcomes through Play in the Zone of Proximal Developmental Flow (ZPDF), through Early Childhood Education for Sustainable Citizenship and in early childhood Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).