Cornwall’s nature is in decline as G7 leaders meet to discuss global issues

Chough on the clifftops, Image by Adrian Langdon

The State of Nature Cornwall 2020 report reveals threats to local wildlife, with 12% of species of principal importance threatened with local extinction and almost a quarter of all terrestrial mammals and butterfly species at risk.
  • 12% of species of principal importance are threatened with local extinction
  • Almost a quarter of all terrestrial mammals and butterfly species at risk 
  • 150km (93 miles) of Cornish Hedges lost since 1990 
  • Among the biggest threats to nature on land are intensive farming and climate change 
  • The most significant threats to nature at sea are intensive fishing and pollution 

Cornwall’s coasts and countryside are undoubtedly beautiful, but a new report published today reveals that Cornwall’s wild places - and the species that depend on them - are in decline.

The State of Nature Cornwall 2020 report, led by Cornwall Wildlife Trust, is the most comprehensive analysis of Cornwall’s natural environment to date. Inspired by the ground-breaking UK State of Nature report of 2019, which revealed that 41% of species studies in the UK since the 1970s are in decline, Cornwall Wildlife Trust set out to discover how nature in Cornwall fares in comparison with the rest of the UK.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust collaborated with Cornwall Council and the University of Exeter to analyse a huge volume of local species and habitat data collected largely by volunteer ‘citizen scientists’. The report shows the trend of declines is in line with the rest of the UK over the last 30 years. While a few species have prospered, the overall findings support widespread claims that the ecological crisis is unfolding on our doorstep.

Over 150km (93 miles) of Cornish hedges have been lost since the 1990s – a key habitat and wildlife corridor enabling isolated species to move freely. Intensive farming and climate change are among the pressures having the greatest negative impact on Cornwall’s wildlife on land, whilst intensive fishing and pollution pose the most significant threat to our seas.

Cornish Hedge and Stile by John Beedle

Cornish Hedge and Stile, Image by John Beedle

The report comes just days before the Prime Minister welcomes world leaders to beautiful Cornwall for the G7 summit for crucial talks on tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity.

Carolyn Cadman, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, says: “Our analysis shows that Cornwall’s wildlife and wild places are in trouble and we need to take action now to reverse the decline. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and here in Cornwall the beauty of our coasts and countryside masks the pressures which nature faces.”

“We know what to do to bring nature back. With additional investment, some changes may be reversed through species reintroductions and nature recovery programmes, which we are already undertaking. However, it is also vital that the UK Government makes good on its commitment to strong, world-leading environmental laws and protection, and increases investment in nature on a national scale, to create wildlife habitats which are bigger, better managed and more joined-up.” 

Here in Cornwall the beauty of our coasts and countryside masks the pressures which nature faces... it's vital that the UK Government makes good on its commitment to strong, world-leading environmental laws and protection to create wildlife habitats which are bigger, better managed and more joined-up.
Carolyn Cadman
Chief Executive of Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Climate change will be much discussed at the G7 summit; it is one of multiple human pressures recognised in the report as accelerating nature’s decline in Cornwall. The county’s average temperature has increased by 1oc in the last 34 years, compared to a 5oc rise in the last 20,000 years, leading to a direct loss of food, water and places of refuge for many animals.

The report also considers the actions that can be taken at local and national levels to help nature recover and highlights local projects which are already in place as examples of excellent practice.

Cheryl Marriott, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Head of Conservation, says: “The efforts of local wildlife groups, organisations and projects to monitor and protect Cornwall’s nature are outstanding. Without their sightings, records and evidence, the State of Nature Cornwall report would not have been possible.”

“We all need to do more to protect wildlife and wild places. Government policies must change and both national and international action needs to be stepped up as a matter of urgency.”

The efforts of local wildlife groups, organisations and projects to monitor and protect Cornwall’s nature are outstanding... Government policies must change and both national and international action needs to be stepped up as a matter of urgency.
Cheryl Marriott
Head of Conservation at Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Read State of Nature Cornwall 2020 report here. View Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Nature Recovery Network for Cornwall animation here.