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The UK is one of the most nature-impoverished countries in the world

ITV News Reporter James Webster addresses conservationists who say nature needs to be restored across countryside, not just in nature reserves

The UK is one of the most nature-impoverished countries in the world with around half of its biodiversity remaining.

The country may not have enough biodiversity – the variety of plant and animal life – to prevent an ecological collapse, researchers said.

It only has 53% of biodiversity left, well below the global average of 75%, according to the Natural History Museum.

Both figures are below the 90% level that experts believe is necessary to prevent the world from slipping into an “ecological recession.”

The ecological recession could lead to a future in which ecosystems do not have enough biodiversity to function well, leading to poor harvests and infestations that could lead to shortages of food, energy and materials.

The UK has only 53% of its biodiversity left, with species such as the red squirrel in decline Credit: Danny Lawson / PA

“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 biodiversity to mean that we have to be careful not to rely on them to function as 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 is in the bottom 10% of countries around the world and last in the G7 group of nations.

Much of the damage to nature is linked to the industrial revolution, said Professor Andy Purvis, of the life sciences department of natural history.

He said, “It mechanized the destruction of nature to some extent, converting it into commodities for profit.”

A hazelnut dormouse, one of the UK’s endangered species. Credit: Peter Byrne / AP

Dr De Palma said that while there has been an increase in the amount of high-quality natural vegetation that supports native species, these gains have been offset by the expansion of cropland and urban areas, and the population growth.

Prof Purvis said he hoped the UK would not just “relocate damage to biodiversity to other places”.

The Natural History Museum hopes its research will help world leaders next week when they gather for the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity, known as COP15.

The conference, hosted by China, will take place online from October 11-15. A second meeting will be held in Kunming City in the spring of next year.

Leaders will try to agree on new goals over the next 10 years.

Leaders meet next week at COP15 to discuss protecting nature across the planet, like endangered Asian elephants Credit: Peter Byrne / AP

None of the latest global wildlife targets, 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 continued, “Stopping further damage to the planet requires a big change, 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. “

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