Comment on the UN Biodiversity Summit, September 2020

Comment on the UN Biodiversity Summit, September 2020

The UK’s lack of action on biodiversity is increasingly evident – even in the remotest of places.

The Farne Islands off Northumberland are a haven for seabirds within a special marine conservation zone, seemingly untouched by human life.

But rising ocean temperatures and overfishing mean the islands’ inhabitants – seabirds like puffins, skuas and kittiwakes – are having to hunt further afield for sand eels, a key prey species.

In fact, the UK’s kittiwake population has declined by 70% since 1986 due to the reduced availability and nutritional value of sand eels.

Extreme weather conditions meanwhile are interfering with the nesting and migration on the Farnes.

In June 2019, almost 90mm of rain fell on one of the islands in a single day – more than three times the total rainfall for that month in 2018 – flooding puffin burrows and washing out hundreds of newly born pufflings.

National Trust rangers carefully monitor the birds, including taking a full puffin census each year to better understand the external factors at play and contribute to a worldwide picture of this remarkable species.

Ben McCarthy, the National Trust’s Head of Nature Conservation, said: “Last year’s State of Nature report painted a bleak picture of biodiversity in the UK with 15% of species threatened with extinction. We’ve almost passed the point of saving some of these species; it’s heart-breaking.

“The pandemic has thrown into focus just how much we value nature in our lives. But without action, without legally binding targets, we’re at risk of leaving the next generation with a planet that’s depleted of wildlife, colour, experiences.

“We will continue to work hard for biodiversity and are determined to improve its chances. And we’ll encourage everyone to play a part – by supporting their local conservation organisations and making space for wildlife in the garden.

“But the government must lead by example. The Prime Minister has signalled his commitment – now is the time for action.”

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