Monday, 11 June 2018

Britain's Badlands


Chris Packham has pointed out (yet again) that Britain is facing an 'ecological Armageddon' with striking losses of many birds, insects and plants (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/11/chris-packham-springwatch-warns-of-ecological-apocalypse-britain). It is claimed that Britain is one of the most natural history-depleted countries in the world. The declines are truly astounding and ought to raise more urgent concern. Losses of individual species are notable but the complexity of interactions between the non-living (the abiotic elements like gases, water, soil and rocks) and living (the biotic elements like animals, plants, fungi and bacteria) components makes the ecological consequences very difficult to predict (although the clear direction is impoverishment). I also concur with Packham's (anecdotal) claim that there have been remarkable reductions in easily-observable species (like birds, butterflies and moths) over my life-time. As a boy, nettles were covered in munching Small tortoiseshell. Red admiral and Peacock butterfly larvae. Now they just stand there. Ragwort is now generally free of Cinnabar moth caterpillars. The UK's basic problems include general habitat destruction (by farming, gardening, building, draining, transport et cetera) along with over-use of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. We also seem to be generally intolerant of anything someone feels might cause harm to humans and/or our domestic and companion animals; species that make what might be regarded as a 'mess' or organisms that simply do not fit some people's idea of beauty.

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