A Nature Emergency has been declared by the Senedd, recognising the shocking loss of biodiversity we are seeing. More than half the butterfly species we used to have in Wales have been lost since the 1970s. Greenfinches have declined in numbers by over 70%. In the last 16 years we have lost 60% of our hedgehogs, while in the last decade alone, curlews and swifts have seen a 44% drop in breeding numbers.
Altogether, over the past 50 years, 73% of species have been lost to Wales, and one in six species which remain are at risk of extinction.
These figures and more were shared by Senedd members across the political spectrum during the debate earlier this month, drawing on sources like the State of Nature Report 2019. Legally binding targets now look set to be brought in, as the Welsh Government acknowledges that not enough has been done to preserve nature and reverse this devastating biodiversity loss. Wales is now one of the worst performers globally in this area, but the trend is similar everywhere.
Gower Power supporters will not be surprised to hear why this is happening. Air pollution is a killer for many species. Water pollution can also be a factor, severely affecting Welsh freshwater habitats in particular. But the most significant culprit in species decline is the unsustainable management of agricultural land. Farming takes up 88% of Wales’s area, and if it is not managed appropriately then precious flowers, insects, birds and other species can’t find the homes or food sources they need to survive. While 11% of Wales is contained in sites that are specially protected for nature, a lot of them are not in very good condition, and aren’t managed in the best way for the particular wildlife that need them.
Environmental charities like the RSPB and WWF Cymru emphasise that urgency is needed, and must be evident in legally binding goals, similar to those for carbon emissions and recycling. They also say hope is not lost. Bitterns, large blue butterflies and red kites have been brought back from the brink of extinction in Wales. The Gower showcases some really good practice in nature-friendly land maintenance:
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