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The State of Nature Report 2023 is the latest go-to resource for information on how our species and ecosystems are faring in Wales, and across the UK.
Drawing on the best available data, the report acts as a stock-take for our wildlife, painting a picture of how the natural world is doing in response to the numerous pressures it faces.
The report headlines are alarming – calling for decisive and urgent action to protect our species.
Here’s a closer look at some of the headlines from the report, what they mean for our species and habitats in Wales, and what we at Plantlife are doing to make a difference:
1. Of 3908 species [all taxa] that have been assessed – 18% are threatened with extinction from Wales
This means that almost 1 in 5 species are at risk of being lost forever.
When we lose species to extinction, it undermines our ecosystem’s ability to adapt and respond to environmental pressures. For this reason, recovering species is one of our strategic missions at Plantlife.
We achieve this mission in partnerships through funded species recovery projects, such as Natur Am Byth, and through targeted interventions that support declining priority species, such as our work on Fen Orchid, Tree Lungwort and Yellow Marsh Orchid.
2. Plant species associated with upland habitats like bogs and heathlands have declined.
As temperatures rise, plants that are adapted to live in the cooler upland areas have two options: they can either move further north or move higher up into the mountains. However, for species with fragmented populations, northward expansion is impossible, and so their only choice is to move to higher ground where the temperature is cooler.
Without intervention, these species will eventually have nowhere else to go, and they could be lost from Wales completely.
This is one of the reasons that the arctic-alpine plant community has been selected as a priority for the Natur Am Byth project. The Tlysau Mynydd Eryri (Mountain Jewels of Snowdonia) project sets out an action plan to directly intervene and save these vulnerable alpine plants.
Other pressures threatening upland plant communities are the expansion of coniferous woodland plantations, inappropriate grazing patterns and excessive levels of air pollution.
We are working to address these threats holistically, through direct intervention, influencing land management practices and wider advocacy work to ensure policies and legislation help address these threats.
3. The flora of Wales is changing – there has been a decrease in the distribution range of 42% of vascular plant species.
In order to bolster and support our plant species, we target our work where its most needed.
The majority of our species-rich grasslands have been destroyed since the 1940s, and they are now among Great Britain’s rarest habitats. This is despite grasslands having the potential to contain the greatest number of species per square metre of any habitat, and store large amounts of carbon securely in their soils.
Our new Glaswelltiroedd Gwydn (Resilient Grasslands) project seeks to improve the health of our grasslands in protected sites across Wales, supporting species to recover and thrive.
We are also calling on governments in England, Scotland, and Wales to take a strategic approach to grasslands and meaningfully incorporate them into climate and nature policy, in order to achieve national and international targets.
Although many of the headlines can seem bleak, the State of Nature report serves as a call to action.
Rather than becoming demotivated, the direction that this report provides should act as a catalyst to produce positive change where it’s most needed.
Armed with this knowledge, we will continue taking proactive steps to support our species and help them recover wherever we can.
Read more about the State of Nature report 2023 and how you can use your voice to call for action for our wild plants and fungi now.
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