Northern Ireland news

Hundreds of species in north 'could become extinct'

A Common Blue butterfly. Nine butterfly species in the north have declined by 43 per cent since 2006. Picture by Bob Eade

HUNDREDS of species across Northern Ireland - including butterflies and bumblebees - are under threat of extinction.

According to the National Biodiversity Network's State of Nature 2019 report, nine butterfly species in the north have declined by 43 per cent since 2006.

Of 2,450 species across Ireland, 11 per cent could become extinct, the report found.

Species under threat include the small blue butterfly, cuckoo bumblebee and spiny dogfish.

The report found the numbers of 36 species of wintering waterbirds - including pintails, pochards, shovelers and tufted ducks - had declined by 38 per cent since 1988 and by 27 per cent between 2006 and 2016 alone.

Researchers looked at biodiversity across the north and Britain.

Tufted ducks are among species under threat. Picture by Hazel Watson, RSPB

They highlighted studies over the last 50 years which showed that changes in agricultural practices and climate change are having the biggest impact on nature.

Climate change has meant that migratory birds are arriving and laying eggs earlier.

The research found that swallows are arriving around 15 days earlier than they did in the 1960s. The birds are also breeding 11 days earlier.

Pollution has been highlighted as a major concern. While many emissions have reduced in recent decades, pollution continues to severely affect sensitive habitats and new sources of pollution are continuing to emerge.

The report also found that public sector expenditure on biodiversity in the UK, as a proportion of GDP, has fallen by 34 per cent since 2008/09.

Black-tailed godwits are under threat

The report's lead author, Daniel Hayhow, said the findings were challeging.

"We know more about the UK’s wildlife than any other country on the planet, and what it is telling us should make us sit up and listen," he said.

"We need to respond more urgently across the board if we are to put nature back where it belongs. Governments, conservation groups and individuals must continue to work together to help restore our land and sea for wildlife and people in a way that is both ambitious and inspiring for future generations."

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is consulting on the north's environment strategy.

The National Biodiversity Network's State of Nature 2019 report has highlighted species under threat of extinction. Picture by RSPB

Anne-Marie McDevitt, from RSPB NI, said a long-term solution is needed to reverse the decline in biodiversity.

"The report makes sombre reading but there are some great examples of how we can turn things around if we work together," she said.

"We need more of this, over the longer term and on a bigger scale if we are really to make a difference for wildlife.

"The new DAERA Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland is our opportunity to do just that. This strategy needs to be ambitious, have clear milestones and targets, be set in legislation and properly funded."

Young conservationist Dara McAnulty, who lives in Co Down, said: "Nature is wondrous, fascinating and magnificent but most importantly it is our life support system. Northern Ireland has some of the rarest habitats in the UK, we must do all we can to cherish and protect them."

A small tortoiseshell butterfly on a thistle. Picture by Graham Madge, RSPB

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