What is the state of biodiversity in the UK?

The UK boasts more than 70,000 known species of animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms, but the majority of assessments indicate that the abundance of its wildlife is declining.  

Trying to measure biodiversity loss over time is very difficult and much of the data available will have gaps, not having been gathered consistently over time. However, the most recent State of Nature report, published in 2019, suggests there has been a 13% decline in the average abundance of wildlife in the UK since the 1970s. Changes in land use and changes in the distribution of habitat types will have seen changes in biodiversity with an overall picture of ongoing species decline, although perhaps not at the rate seen in previous decades.

The UK, however, is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity and in 2010 committed to a set of biodiversity goals known collectively as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (that were due to be met by 2020). The UK has increased the extent of protected areas both on land and at sea, together with reducing air and sea pollution. The relative abundance and distribution of priority species, however, has not improved. Numbers of farmland and woodland birds have deteriorated while pollinating insects have also showed little sign of improvement. This comes despite an increase in public spending on biodiversity of 69% since 2000, although there has been a 33% decrease in spending over the past five years. The £473m of public sector funding spent on biodiversity in 2018/19 accounted for just 0.022% of the country's GDP. 

Growing pressure from introduced diseases, invasive non-native species and climate change is expected to further exacerbate the decline of the UK's natural wealth over the coming decades. 

UK Overseas Territories have very rich and varied natural habitats. They are thought to account for 90% of the biodiversity found within the UK and the overseas territories combined. They face many of the same challenges as habitats in the rest of the world.