Jono Leadley takes stock of a recent report on the state of British wildlife.

In early June, 25 wildlife conservation organisations, including the Wildlife Trusts, published a report, The State Of Nature. This report revealed shocking results following a national stock-take of the wildlife that shares our land.

Declines have been recorded in more than 60 per cent of the species studied and one in ten of those are under threat of being lost together. How can we have let this happen?

The report reveals that 31 per cent of plants and animals have declined strongly and are in real danger of extinction. Mostly, these species are specialists, being quite choosy about where they live.

As our countryside is tidied-up, “improved” and developed, many of these habitats are lost. Butterflies are one group that has seen a colossal decline in many species, particularly the fritillaries.

The loss of these species has been linked to the changes in woodland habitat caused by the abandonment of traditional management practises such as coppicing, over-grazing by the burgeoning deer population and woodland ageing.

As populations of these butterflies are lost, it is very hard for them to re-colonise as their remaining colonies are very fragmented. Thus local extinctions can rapidly lead to regional losses.

Down on the farm, things are just as bleak.

I recently attended an open farm day on the Wolds. The kids loved the tractor rides and it was interesting to see the challenges facing a modern Wolds farm.

However, the challenges facing farmland wildlife were sadly all too apparent. The farm tracks had not avoided the boom sprayer and were reduced to a monoculture of rye grass. A nearby flowering oilseed rape field should have been buzzing with bees and other insects but instead was eerily silent.

A Leeds University group who had been doing a bug hunt all day had not recorded a single bee or butterfly of any species. The skies overhead which should have been filled with the songs of skylark were equally quiet.

Apart from the occasional and ubiquitous woodpigeon, we saw very little wildlife at all. On a more positive front, the report also illustrates how active conservation-work by charities and NGOs, including Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, has resulted in some great successes.

The celebrated return of otters and bitterns to our wetlands and river systems gives us much to be proud of. A few decades ago it would have been hard to imagine that peregrine falcons would be a regular sight in Yorkshire skies, even nesting in some of our bustling cities.

So, there is hope but only if we continue to persevere and strive for a Yorkshire, and a UK rich in wildlife. We must protect the remaining sites that are havens for wildlife and work to increase their size, manage the habitats better and reconnect them through the landscape.

Only with this “bigger, better, more and joined up” approach to nature conservation will our precious wildlife have a future. And we can only do this in collaboration. This is why Yorkshire Wildlife Trust needs your support as together we can make a much bigger difference.

To join the trust, log on to or phone 01904 659570.