Northern Ireland news

Shocking decline in Northern Ireland's wildlife continues, says new report

The 'State of Nature 2023' report is the most comprehensive review of Northern Ireland's nature
Suzanne McGonagle

Northern Ireland is "one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world" with 12 per cent of species assessed now threatened with extinction, a new report has found.

The shocking decline in the north's wildlife is revealed in the 'State of Nature 2023' report.

It is the most comprehensive review of Northern Ireland's nature and reveals the devastating scale of nature loss.

Compiled by leading professionals from over 60 research and conservation organisations, it highlights nature losses and the impact of intensive management of land and seas, as well as climate change.

Among the findings are:

 - Farmland birds have decreased by 43 per cent since 1996, across 17 monitored species

- Breeding birds more widely are in decline - on average 10 per cent across 64 species

- Butterfly species decreased on average by 16 per cent since 2006, over the 14 monitored species

- 891 plant species have declined by a 14 per cent average between 1970 and 2019

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Gillian Gilbert, from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and lead author of the report, said the findings highlight "just how much nature in Northern Ireland needs more help".

"Despite ongoing efforts, from nature-friendly farmers, wildlife charities and all the individuals who are passionate about doing their part for nature, we are still not tackling this crisis at the scale needed," she said.

"Urgent action is necessary to slow down biodiversity loss, and to try and reverse some of the damage of recent decades."

The report is compiled by leading professionals from over 60 research and conservation organisations


The State of Nature report used data from monitoring schemes and biological recording centres, collated by thousands of volunteers and naturalists, and looked at evidence over the last 50 years, identifying large-scale trends.

Also highlighted in the report is the growing recognition among the public and policymakers of the value of nature, including its role in tackling climate change, and the need for its conservation.

With approximately 76 per cent of land in Northern Ireland being used for agriculture, the report suggests that nature-friendly farming urgently needs to be implemented at a wide scale to halt the decline in farmland wildlife.

It also says this "must be considered alongside the challenge of responding to the nature and climate crisis, while still meeting people’s needs for food, energy and fuel".

On a more positive note, the report also reveals that communities, conservation projects and legislation can have a positive impact on nature and the wider environment.

For example, 10 per cent of the UK’s peatland resources can be found in Northern Ireland.

Only 15 per cent of peatland assessed is in good condition, and a new peatland strategy aims to quantify the natural capital value of this resource.

Peatland restoration projects, such as Garron Plateau blanket bog in Antrim, restore and create carbon-rich habitats, benefiting climate change mitigation and biodiversity.


Northern Ireland news