New data indicates the UK may not have enough biodiversity to prevent an ecological disaster and is already one of the most nature-impoverished countries in the world.
The UK has on average only 53% of its biodiversity, well below the global average of 75%, according to a Natural History Museum analysis released on Sunday.
Both figures are below the 90% average, which experts see as the "safe limit" to keep the world from slipping into an "ecological recession."
This would translate into a future in which ecosystems do not have enough biodiversity to function well, leading to crop failures and infestations that could lead to shortages of food, energy and materials.
Biodiversity represents the variety of plant and animal life on Earth, and scientists report that it is declining rapidly.
“Much of the world has lost much of its natural biodiversity,” said Dr Adriana De Palma of the Natural History Museum.
“These systems have lost enough of their biodiversity that we have to be careful not to rely on them to function the way we need them to. "
Museum researchers developed the Biodiversity Integrity Index (BII), which measures the percentage of nature that remains in an area.
The UK's 53% "BII" puts it in the bottom 10% of the world's countries and bottom of the G7 group of countries.
The UK's long-standing poor place in the rankings is linked to the industrial revolution, said Professor Andy Purvis of the life sciences department of natural history.
“It mechanized the destruction of nature to some extent, converting it into goods for profit,” he said.
The UK has experienced relatively stable levels of biodiversity in recent years, albeit at a "very low level", said Dr De Palma.
Although the country has seen some increase in the amount of high-quality natural vegetation that helps support native species, these gains have been offset by the expansion of cropland and urban areas, as well as population growth, she explained during a press briefing.
The UK can solve the problem, but "we hope, from a global biodiversity perspective, that this does not come at the expense of offshoring damage to biodiversity to other places," said the United Kingdom. Professor Purvis, world renowned expert in biodiversity measurements.
The team at the Museum of Natural History hope their BII tool will help world leaders come together for the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity, known as COP15. Conference we are talking about in this journal in a previous article.
The conference, hosted by China, took place online on October 11 and 15, and a second round will be held in Kunming city next spring.
Negotiators are tasked with agreeing on a new set of goals for nature over the next 10 years.
None of the latest global wildlife targets, which were set in Aichi, Japan, in 2010, have been met.
“This is our last best chance for a sustainable future,” Prof Purvis said of COP15.
He stressed the need for action that recognizes that developed countries have a stable but low level of biodiversity integrity, while developing countries have a rapidly declining high level - a "global race to the top". .
He said: “The loss of biodiversity is just as potentially catastrophic for people as climate change, but the solutions are linked.
“Stopping further damage to the planet requires big changes, but we can do it if we act now, together.
“Getting along as we are doing now is far from sufficient to halt, let alone reverse, the ongoing global decline in biodiversity. "