Today’s blog comes form Ian Barrett, Chief Executive at Avon Wildlife Trust.
Happy World Environment Day from all at Avon Wildlife Trust.
In these exceptional times, many of us will have spent more time outdoors noticing nature – exercising, watching the flowers bloom, bees and butterflies buzz by or even simply looking out the window to listen to the bird song or catch the dappled light shining through the gaps of fresh tree canopy.
Nature continues to bring us all a sense of joy and solace during lockdown, but even outside the current coronavirus pandemic it is essential for the way we live our lives every day. Clean air, clear water, healthy soils, food crops and natural flood defences are all benefits of a thriving natural world, and local green spaces are so important for many people looking to improve their health and wellbeing.
Unfortunately, our wildlife and these green spaces are under greater threat than ever. Recent reports have painted a picture of plummeting wildlife populations. There has been a 60% decline in wild vertebrates worldwide since 1970. 44 million nesting birds, 30 million hedgehogs and 2.8 million brown hare have been lost from the UK since the middle of the 20th Century. In Bristol, the city’s swift and starling populations are a fraction of what they were, with a 96% decline in numbers of these once-common birds between 1994 and 2014. Species extinctions are high and accelerating, with 41% of insects worldwide and 15% of UK species at risk.
The good news is that there is still time to build back a world that is better for wildlife and for people. Earlier this year we declared an ecological emergency in Bristol alongside Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees. This declaration recognises the scale of wildlife decline and the serious breakdown of the natural environment which we now face.
Human activities are reducing the space available for wildlife, and causing climate change and pollution. However, the timing of this announcement presents a crucial opportunity to address both the climate crisis and ecological emergency in a coordinated effort. Alongside the declaration of a climate emergency made by Bristol City Council in November 2018, we are working closely with the Mayor, the council and other local organisations to highlight the ecological crisis facing the city and to shape and lead work to develop an Ecological Emergency Action Plan by the autumn.
Already, ambitious nature targets for the city have been set out in the One City Plan, including increasing tree cover and wildlife abundance in Bristol by the 2040s. The February declaration paves the way for a much quicker pace of change and focus to create and restore places for wildlife in every neighbourhood. Many city organisations and businesses have pledged to commit to action and you can join us too.
All of the actions we take in our homes and daily lives can make a real difference. No matter how big or small these actions are, they are needed now more than ever. People of all ages can take practical action in homes or in their local communities. Whether you have a garden to transform or a window box, you can create habitats and homes for all kinds of wildlife, including insects by letting your garden grow wild or by planting nectar-rich wildflowers that bloom throughout the seasons. By creating habitats on your doorstep, you’ll be providing wildlife on all levels of our local ecosystem with somewhere to live, feed, reproduce and play their part in helping nature thrive. This is vital in helping to combat the ecological emergency we are all facing and is a simple and enjoyable thing we can all do. Have a look at our website for some inspiration and ideas: avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/actions
Over the next few months the Trust will continue to work closely with the council, city organisations and local communities and we’re looking forward to doing this collectively with others in the city. Through exploring nature-based solutions we can all do our part to tackle the ecological emergency and create a more resilient world for people and wildlife, restoring habitats and building connectivity across landscapes. If we all work together and take collective action, it is not too late for wildlife to fight back.
To find out more and to see how to help support our work visit: avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/ecoemergency
To reconnect with nature you can also take part in the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild challenge – committing to taking one Random Act of Wildness every day throughout the month of June.