State of Nature 2016: Wales – one in 14 species heading for extinction

Wednesday 28th September 2016

Children in Welsh wildflower meadow. Photo credit: Gemma BodéChildren in Welsh wildflower meadow. Photo credit: Gemma Bodé

Last week, the ‘State of Nature 2016: Wales’ report was launched. The findings are stark and saddening – one in fourteen species in Wales are heading for extinction. Over 50 research organisations and wildlife charities, including the Wildlife Trusts, came together to produce the report; building on the ground-breaking ‘State of Nature 2013: Wales’ report, a clearer picture has now emerged of the perilous state of Welsh wildlife.

The bad news doesn’t stop there. The catastrophic declines we’re witnessing transcend nearly all major groups. Over the long term (1970-2013), the report reveals that 57% of wild plants, 60% of butterflies and 40% of birds have declined. The short term trends in these groups are no less concerning, birds, in particular, declined by 58% between 2002-2013, with almost 25% exhibiting a ‘strong decrease’.

As part of the broader UK report, a new measure – the ‘Biodiversity Intactness Index’ (BII) was developed, allowing for a more objective assessment of the health of our natural environment. A BII score below 90% is thought to represent an ecosystem that can no longer support the needs of society, or nature. Of the 218 countries assessed, Wales scored 82.8% - well below the 90% threshold. Faring only slightly better than Scotland (81.3%), England (80.6%) and Northern Ireland (80%), Wales ranked in the bottom 20% of all countries assessed– 169th out of 218.

Speaking to the BBC, Sarah Philpott, Campaigns Manager for Wildlife Trusts Wales said:

“Fifty-six percent of wildlife species in Wales are at risk of extinction, so they could completely disappear. That means that 40% of birds, 60% of butterflies and 57% of plants could disappear very, very soon. Now that includes the very rare shrill carder bee, there are only seven [populations] of those remaining in Wales and the beautiful lapwing bird that has decreased by 90% in Wales, so it’s pretty worrying stuff. We have seen some successful reintroduction programmes, such as the pine marten which is promising, but overall, across the scale there is a lot of cause for concern.”

Speaking to ITV Wales, James Byrne, Living Landscapes Advocacy Manager for Wildlife Trusts Wales said:

“There are familiar species - curlew, lapwing - iconic Welsh species are critically at risk of extinction. It’s not just the 1/14 species at risk of extinction, there’s been a 56% decline in the wildlife of Wales over the last 30 years. And so we need to take action, we can no longer afford to allow ourselves as a species to continue to allow the decline of other species.”

“There are only 700 breeding pairs of curlew left in Wales. Within the next 10 years you may only find them in the middle of nature reserves and not in the wider countryside.”

However, the outlook isn’t all doom and gloom - the report highlights a number of projects across Wales that demonstrate how effective conservation work can be when properly targeted, and praised volunteers, who have played a crucial role in Welsh nature conservation. 

At the launch of the State of Nature Report 2013, Iolo Williams spoke passionately about his ‘patch’ – Wales, about how he’s seen Welsh nature decline in his own lifetime and why we are ALL responsible for action. If you haven’t already, please take the time to watch Iolo’s compelling speech.



You can find the full State of Nature 2016: Wales report, available in English/Welsh, at

Tagged with: Species, Curlew, Iolo Williams, Lapwing, Nature, Report, Shrill carder bee, Wales