Written by Gaia Busic: UK Youth for Nature
“Biodiversity is essential to life on earth. It’s a well-honed system that has taken millions of years to evolve to what it is now. It’s easy to put the Biodiversity Crisis off to deal with another day, especially in the light of the terrible events happening around the world, but if we don’t act now, it will be too late”
- Jenny Tse-Leon, Conservation, Evaluation and Research Manager at Froglife
In 2010 the UK, alongside 196 other countries, agreed upon the UN’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets which included aims to halt biodiversity loss by 2020. Nevertheless, in the past decade, the government has failed to meet most of these commitments, and the UK is faced with a staggering 41% of species declining in abundance with ‘no let-up in the net loss of nature’1. As we near the UN Biodiversity Conference COP15, the UK will attempt to set themselves apart as world leaders in nature restoration, setting the ‘30 by 30’ target; to protect 30% of the land and seas by 2030. However, after repeated failure delivering on past promises, how can we trust the government to priorities accomplishing these new targets and avoid another decade lost to nature?
In response to this crucial moment for future wildlife, the UK Youth for Nature team has launched a creative campaign alongside the RSPB, Froglife and other partners, to send a message to politicians and the public about the importance of nature recovery across our four nations. On the 23rd of March, artists from Sand in Your Eye created a spectacular 50ft sand drawing across Scarborough beach depicting an oak leaf, salmon, beaver, and curlew, incorporated into a silhouette of the UK.
As the tide came in that afternoon, there was soon no trace of the artistry that accomplished the colossal sand drawing gracing Scarborough’s shores that morning. A symbol of nature loss, the artwork’s disappearance marks what one day could be the loss of wildlife as we know it if real action is not taken.
The youth group was sending a message to politicians to set the target year 2025 to halt nature loss, ensuring its reversal by 2030. They also pointed out, that despite government claims of 26% UK land cover being classified as nature or protected, only 5% of these areas are in adequate condition to be classified as such4.
“For years we’ve seen nature remain one of governments’ lowest priorities in the UK. When today’s young people are older, some of the most iconic species of the British countryside could already have been lost forever. Our drawing is a loud and clear message to our governments: this year the UN biodiversity conference is a once in a decade chance to set new global nature goals. Take that chance, then act to meet those goals.”
- Talia Goldman, Co-Director of UK Youth for Nature
The species that were portrayed in the drawing are integral to a myriad of ecological services such as carbon sequestration, pollution reduction, climate control, flood prevention and maintenance of healthy oceans and soils, making their economic and social contributions invaluable2. The artwork represents biodiversity across the UK and the species were carefully chosen to include keystone, flagship, bioindicator and umbrella species. For example, the Eurasian beaver is a keystone species; this means their roles in the ecosystems they operate in is disproportionately valuable consequently, their disappearance would threaten their entire ecosystem’s functioning. Protecting these species can be beneficial to a range of reptiles and amphibia, which occupy those same ecosystems. Their reintroduction across the UK presents a huge conservation opportunity for common frogs and toads which dwell in the wetlands habitats beavers create. These ecosystem engineers can modify and restore the habitats of amphibians which are suffering dramatic population declines3.
The sand drawing was also sending a local message. Regional projects such as the Froglife ‘Yorkshire T.O.A.D’ campaign, which aims reduce the decline of toad populations, provides tailored solutions to local problems whilst promoting engagement in the surrounding area6. UK Youth for Nature intend on using their campaign to open a dialog in the local community and help develop policy in Yorkshire.
Where a breath-taking work of art once lay, a message of uncertainty for UK wildlife is all that remains. The youth of today are calling on governments to push nature up their priority lists and take meaningful action before it is too late to turn the tide on nature loss.
- 2020. A Lost Decade for Nature. [Online]. The Lodge, Potton Road, Sandy, Bedfordshire: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). [Accessed 18 March 2022]. Available from: https://www.rspb.org.uk/globalassets/downloads/pa-documents/a-lost-decade-for-nature-2020
- 2022. 10 species that can help save the world. [Online]. Wildlife and Countryside Link. [Accessed 18 March 2022]. Available from: https://www.wcl.org.uk/10-species-that-can-help-save-the-world-launch.asp
- 2022. Beaver reintroduction in the UK. [Online]. [Accessed 25 August 2017]. Available from: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/policy-insight/species/beaver-reintroduction-in-the-uk/
- Amaral-Rogers., Ness. 2021. UK failing to protect land for nature. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).[Online]. [Accessed 25 August 2017]. Available from: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/policy-insight/species/beaver-reintroduction-in-the-uk/
- 2022. Achieving harmony with nature. [Online]. Wildlife and Countryside Link. [Accessed 18 March 2022]. Available from: https://www.wcl.org.uk/docs/Achieving_harmony_with_nature_Summary_Report_February_2022.pdf
- 2022. Yorkshire Tails of Amphibian Discovery (T.O.A.D). [Online]. [Accessed 25 August 2017]. Available from: https://www.froglife.org/yorkshire-tails-of-amphibian-discovery-t-o-a-d/