The Mayor of Bristol yesterday declared an ecological emergency. The recognition of an ecological emergency follows Bristol’s declaration of a climate emergency in 2019.

The announcement recognises the perilous state of our natural environment and the widespread declines in wildlife in our region and beyond.

In recent decades, widespread declines in biodiversity have been driven by a variety of factors including habitat loss, industrial agriculture, changes in land and water use, pollution and climate change. Globally, one in eight bird species is threatened with extinction [1]; and between 1970 and 2018, the average population of marine species has declined by 50% and the average population of vertebrate species by 60% globally [2].

Closer to home, the UK State of Nature Report shows that 41% of species in the UK have decreased since 1970, with 15% of species surveyed at risk of extinction [3]. In the West of England, local data shows populations of swifts and starlings declining by 96% between 1994 and 2014 [4].

These changes threaten our health, prosperity and security. A plethora of evidence demonstrates the importance of nature to our health and wellbeing, but ecosystem services (the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems) also underpin our society and economy. More than half of the world’s GDP is ‘moderately or highly dependent’ on nature and its services, and the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks report ranks biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five global risks, in terms of both impact and likelihood, over the coming decade [5]. Additionally, the decline in insect populations threatens our food supply: 75% of human grown crops require pollination by insects, and in the UK populations of butterflies fell by 46% between 1976 and 2017 [6].

The Climate Emergency declaration was accompanied by an ambition for Bristol to become carbon neutral by 2030, facilitating a transition to a low carbon economy. This announcement presents an opportunity for similarly ambitious actions to restore nature in Bristol and across the West of England, achieving a thriving and well-connected natural environment in the West of England that underpins a healthy and resilient society and economy.

WENP is working to turn our vision of a Nature Recovery Network for the West of England into reality, providing a joined-up network of marine and terrestrial habitats where nature and people can thrive. Additionally, recognising the co-dependence of our own wellbeing with that of nature, our plan for nature and health aims to mainstream nature-based health services in our region.

Organisations who are interested in recognising and responding to the ecological emergency are recommended to read the Bristol Green Capital Partnership’s guide for recognising and responding to the ecological crisis. Additionally, if you would like to discuss how you can contribute to the Nature Recovery Network, please get in touch by emailing info@wenp.org.uk.

Further Information:

References:

  1. State of the World’s Birds, Birdlife International
  2. Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES
  3. UK State of Nature Report 2019, State of Nature Partnership
  4. Data from Bristol Naturalists Society
  5. Nature Risk Rising: Why the Crisis Engulfing Nature Matters for Business and the Economy
  6. Insect Declines and why they matter, Professor Dave Goulson, FRES

©2022 West of England Nature Partnership E: info@wenp.org.uk T: 0117 980 0392 A: 32 Jacobs Wells Road, Bristol, BS8 1DR

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