New Report Shows Urgent Action Needed to Protect Nature as Surrey MP takes on Environment Role

Monday 12th June 2017

Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Robert Thompson, Butterfly ConservationPearl-bordered Fritillary - Robert Thompson, Butterfly Conservation

A wide-ranging review of more than 4,000 species in Surrey has revealed that wildlife in the county is under threat like never before. The State of Surrey’s Nature report found that nearly one in nine species is now extinct and more than one fifth under threat – including Tree Sparrows, Hedgehogs and Great Crested Newts.

The alarming findings come as Surrey Heath MP Michael Gove is appointed Secretary of State for the Environment. Surrey Wildlife Trust is calling on the new Government to take action to protect and invest in the county’s natural assets before it’s too late.


“With the UK’s exit from the EU looming and council budgets squeezed, this is a crucial time for our wildlife – never before have the stakes been so great,” said the Trust’s CEO Nigel Davenport. “The majority of our environmental laws and vital funds are currently entwined with our membership of the European Union and there are no guarantees for the future.

“We should all be calling on the new Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP to uphold the current legal protections and investment in the environment, now and in the future, for the benefit of everyone.” 

The State of Surrey’s Nature study, carried out by The Surrey Nature Partnership, is the first project of its kind, looking at how nature has fared across the county over the last 30 years. It’s not all bad news – the majority of wildlife is not in trouble and some species, such as Nightjars, are increasing, but some species are struggling.

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscapes Manager Mike Waite, who wrote the report, said: “This is a current stock-take of the county’s biodiversity including as many of its wildlife species and habitats as possible. Our research tells us what we have lost in recent history and what remains most threatened – and it makes for alarming reading.

“Surrey is an impressively diverse county biologically in terms of sheer numbers of recorded species. But whilst celebrating our distinctiveness we should be mindful of this report’s sad indication that nearly 12% of our native wildlife has already been lost – clearly this is not the time to be resting on our laurels.”

The study gathered data on 4,242 species, including mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and plants that live in a variety of habitats across Surrey’s landscape, such as woodland, wetland, heathland and grassland, as well as urban areas.
The biodiversity study reveals that:

• 12% - Extinct: Tree Sparrow, Burnt Orchid and Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterfly.
• 21% - Under threat: Hedgehog, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Great Crested Newt.
• 15% - Stable species of conservation concern: Chalkhill Blue butterfly, Reed Bunting, Bullfinch.
• 3% - Increasing: Dartford Warbler, Nightjar, Firecrest, Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly, Common Pipistrelle bat.
• 49% - Not in trouble.

It’s not all doom and gloom – nearly half of our wildlife is thriving, with 15% of species of previous conservation concern now reported as stable and 3% actually increasing. 

Populations of protected birds such as the Nightjar and Dartford Warbler are growing in Surrey, as a direct result of work by organisations including Surrey Wildlife Trust to conserve vital lowland heath habitats, such as Chobham Common – in Michael Gove’s Surrey Heath constituency. The Small Blue butterfly is also making a comeback in some places, following the Trust’s efforts to provide and preserve chalk grassland habitats in areas such as Priest Hill, near Epsom. 

Surrey Wildlife Trust manages over 80 sites in Surrey for the benefit of people and wildlife covering nearly 8,000 hectares – or 5% of the county – including Surrey County Council’s countryside estate. 98% of Surrey’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are now in favourable or recovering condition, largely because of the skills of Trust experts, underpinned by legislation and funding driven by the European Union.

“Wildlife in Surrey is under particular threat from new building developments and pressure on the green belt and we are determined to fight nature’s corner,” added Mr Davenport. “The good news is that we know what needs to be done and have pinpointed the areas where we have the best chance of reversing the decline. 

“But there is an awful lot of work to do. We can’t fight this battle alone. We need the people of Surrey, businesses and communities and the Government to help us – together we can achieve so much more.”

A full copy of The State of Surrey’s Nature report can be seen here >>. You can help wildlife on your doorstep - why not take action for wildlife by volunteering with the Trust? Our citizen science projects such as ‘RiverSearch’ or ‘Hedgerow Heroes’ can make a real difference to wildlife where you live. Or you could support our work by becoming a member. 

The Trust is among 13 major environmental organisations which have united in a Greener UK coalition, to persuade the Government to put the environment at the forefront of its plans for post Brexit Britain. You can ask your MP for stand up for wildlife in the county by signing Greener UK’s Pledge for the Environment here

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