UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries, new data shows

Support us and go ad-free

The UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries – and may not have enough biodiversity to prevent an ecological meltdown, according to new data.

The UK has an average of only 53% of its biodiversity left, well below the global average of 75%. That’s according to analysis by the Natural History Museum released on Sunday 10 October.

Biodiversity dwindling fast

Both figures are lower than the 90% average which experts consider the “safe limit” to prevent the world from tipping into an “ecological recession”. This would mean a future in which ecosystems don’t have enough biodiversity to function well. Moreover, it would lead to crop failures and infestations that could cause shortages in food, energy and materials.

Biodiversity represents the variety of plant and animal life on Earth, and scientists say it’s dwindling fast.

Dr Adriana De Palma from the Natural History Museum said:

Much of the world has lost a large amount of its natural biodiversity…

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Those systems have lost enough biodiversity to mean that we have to be careful about relying on them functioning in the way that we need them to.

Researchers at the museum have developed the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII). This measures the percentage of nature that remains in an area.

The UK’s 53% BII places it in the bottom 10% of the world’s countries and last among the G7 group of nations.

The UK’s long-time low position in the league table is linked to the industrial revolution, said professor Andy Purvis from the Natural History Museum’s life sciences department. He said:

That mechanised the destruction of nature to an extent, converting it into goods for profits

The UK has seen relatively stable biodiversity levels over recent years but at a “really low level,” De Palma said.

She explained in a press briefing that the country has seen some increases in the amount of high-quality natural vegetation that helps support native species. However, those gains have been offset by the expansion of cropland and urban areas, as well as population growth.

Meanwhile Purvis, a world-renowned expert on biodiversity metrics, said the UK can fix the problem but:

we’d hope from a global biodiversity perspective that that doesn’t come at the expense of just offshoring biodiversity damage to other places


The team from the Natural History Museum hope their BII tool will help global leaders meeting for the UN Biodiversity Conference, known as COP15, next week.

The conference, hosted by China, is set to take place online on 11-15 October. A second round will be held in the city of Kunming next spring.

Negotiators are tasked with agreeing a new set of goals for nature over the next 10 years.

None of the world’s last targets for protecting wildlife, which were set in Aichi, Japan, in 2010, were met.

Endangered Asian elephants
Leaders meet next week at COP15 to discuss protecting nature across the planet, such as endangered Asian elephants (Peter Byrne/PA)

“This is our last best chance for a sustainable future,” Purvis said of COP15.

He highlighted the need for action that recognises that developed countries have a stable but low level of biodiversity, while developing countries have a high level that is decreasing fast – a “global levelling up.”

He said:

Biodiversity loss is just as potentially catastrophic for people as climate change, but the solutions are linked.

Stopping further damage to the planet requires big change, but we can do it if we act now, together.

Muddling through as we currently are doing is nowhere near enough to halt, let alone reverse, the ongoing worldwide decline in biodiversity.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us