Threats to UK Wildlife
By Rob Terrell
The British relatives to the North American red squirrels at Chew Valley, used to be abundant and widely distributed across the UK. However, these squirrels declined rapidly after humans introduced North American grey squirrels here, leading to an epidemic of a pox virus fatal to the native red squirrels. Invasive species, such as this, are not the only anthropogenic threat to the native wildlife in the UK. Below are some reasons why the majority of our wildlife are declining, and how YOU can help!
Warming weather and more frequent droughts due to climate change endanger some of Britain’s most iconic animals, including hedgehogs, moles, badgers, and many birds, which eat many invertebrates that favour damp weather.
Arguably the best and simplest way you can help is to eat more sustainably. ¼ of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food production, namely from the livestock industry. By eating less meat, you are helping to reduce deforestation in place for agricultural expansion.
Less than 1/6 of English rivers are healthy. This is primarily due to pollution from agricultural and industrial chemicals, sewage, and oils. This has contributed to a decline in otters, kingfishers, and Endangered water voles. In fact, over 10% of freshwater and wetland species are threatened with extinction in the UK.
Do not discard chemicals, cleaning agents, or waste products down the sink or toilet. You can now buy eco-friendly dishwashing solution, laundry detergent, and hygiene products!
The demand for food in a growing population has led to natural habitats being destroyed in place for grazing grasslands and monocultures. This has massively impacted UK wildlife by deteriorating soil health, reducing both faunal and floral biodiversity, and unbalancing ecosystems necessary for the functioning of important natural processes to wildlife and humans.
We can help wildlife by buying more organic products and supporting nature-friendly farming.
Hunting and Persecution
Scottish wildcats and pine martens were pushed to the brink due unnecessary hunting. However, this still occurs with foxes, badgers, and raptors illegally and inhumanely hunted.
By protesting, educating others, and signing petitions, you can help pressure lawmakers to strengthen hunting laws and the enforcement of these.
Everyone knows the issues that wildlife across the world are facing with when it comes to plastics, especially in oceans. In the UK, countless seabirds are ingesting plastic. Also, plankton consume microplastics which are then passed up the food chain. This can accumulate at great concentrations, poisoning oceanic predatory species such as dolphins.
Cut out single-use and unnecessary everyday plastics, recycle, and pick up litter!
Natural habitats have and continue to decline in place for housing and other facilities for humans. Although some species thrive in cities, the diversity of species reduce, reptiles have decreased in line with the loss of heathlands, and thousands of animals die from roadkill every year.
Urbanisation can be managed to help wildlife thrive alongside humans. You can help by making your garden and area surrounding your house wildlife friendly, and supporting local urban nature reserves.