Goal 15: Life on Land


The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world

By Leanne Walstow
30 July 2020

The UK’s first Red List compiled by scientists and released today, indicates that a quarter of native UK mammals are at imminent risk of extinction. Though conservationists are hailing this as a ‘wake-up call’, this list is hardly surprising when a report published in October revealed that since 1970, populations of the UK’s most important species has dropped by an average of 60%. This makes the UK one of the most nature depleted countries in the world.

What animals are at risk?

There are 11 mammals in critical danger, but the full list of at risk mammals contains 17 of the country’s 47 native species. They range from the near threatened mountain hare and harvest mouse, to the critically endangered wildcat and greater mouse-eared bat. The list includes some of the UK’s most iconic mammals, including the red squirrel, the hazel dormouse, and the hedgehog.

Goal 15: Life On Land
Goal 15: Life On Land

Why are they struggling to survive?

Habitat destruction is thought to be the main reason behind the declines, which forces populations to become more isolated, while to competing for limited resources. The grey long-eared bat (of which there are only 1000 left) is a prime example; this unusual creature relies on meadows, a habitat that has declined by 97% since 1945. The destruction of hedgerows - another iconic British countryside sight - has led to hedgehog numbers halving since 2007. Red squirrels were infamously driven to the brink of extinction by the introduction of the grey squirrel which out-competed the native species and brought new diseases. Water voles have a similar story, losing much of their habitat to the American mink which escaped into the countryside and now is a stable competitor.

What can be done?

Currently there is little incentive for those who own large areas of land to transform their fields into habitats. Hope is being offered in the form of a government proposal to pay farmers to allow their land to undergo rewilding, the aim is that this scheme will be rolled out on a large enough scale to make a tangible difference. 

How can you help?

Those of us lucky enough to have outdoor space can also help by allowing areas of our garden to grow naturally, and by introducing sections of it where mammals feel safe, such as log piles and bat boxes. Even a small pond in a sunken washing up bowl or section of lawn that is left unmown will encourage your garden’s natural biosphere. It’s also a good idea to research and introduce native species of plant that can serve as food or shelter for endangered wildlife.