The Species Recovery Trust is committed to preventing the loss of some of the rarest plant, insect and animal species in the UK, with our primary aim being to remove 50 species from the edge of extinction by 2050.
Our work involves producing dynamic conservation strategies informed by detailed scientific knowledge, and making sure they are carried out effectively throughout our conservation sites.
Our team of highly skilled conservationists and passionate volunteers have been doing this targeted recovery work for the past ten years, and many species are now showing an increase in their population numbers for the first time in decades, helping to ensure a more secure future.
Learn more about how we work
Learn more about the science behind our work
Meet Our Team
HOW WE WORK
We shortlist species which are currently demonstrating catastrophic levels of decline in the UK, those which already exist at such low numbers that their long-term survival remains uncertain or those which may be at risk in the near future from emerging threats
We analyse current data to determine which species to target, to understand where they occur, and to identify which populations are at critical risk
We intervene at critical sites and carrying out emergency habitat restoration to prevent extinction and build populations up to genetically viable levels. For those populations which have reached sub-critical levels, captive bred specimens (under licence) will be reintroduced to create viable breeding populations
Where disjunct habitats do not allow natural migration, we look to create new populations - ultimately with the aim of linking vulnerable and isolated communities, and establishing networks of healthy functioning meta-populations
We work with landowners to improve their understanding of the species and encourage sustained management methods over the longer term - wherever possible embedding it within other ongoing management work (e.g. woodland coppicing, hay meadow management)
We encourage community ownership of projects and galvanise local groups to adopt their sites
We campaign to raise the status of rare species in the hearts and minds of the public, the media and politicians
We train a whole new generation of wildlife enthusiasts to ensure we never lose touch with the natural world around us
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THE SCIENCE THAT DRIVES OUR WORK
We are currently living through a major global extinction event, with the loss of species occurring at a rate faster than seen for several millennia. While previous extinction episodes have been caused by massive planetary changes such as volcanic explosions or shifts in tectonic plates, the current die-off is almost entirely driven by the activities of man.
The last global extinction event was 65 million years ago and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs and a permanent re-shaping of life on earth. It now appears that a similar wave of extinction is gathering pace across the planet.
“Palaeontologists characterise mass extinctions as times when the Earth loses more than three-quarters of its species in a geologically short interval, as has happened only five times in the past 540 million years or so. Biologists now suggest that a sixth mass extinction may be under way, given the known species losses over the past few centuries and millennia." Barnosky 2011
Current predictions suggest that if we continue on our current trajectory we are likely to lose half of all known species on earth within the next century.
Nearly a quarter of the world's mammals, a third of amphibians and at least a tenth of bird species are currently threatened with extinction. Climate change alone is expected to force a further 30% of species to the brink of extinction within the next 50 years.
Many of these rare species may appear to not have any obvious benefits to us, or provide us with any direct ecosystem service. Their rarity alone has meant that few other organisms rely upon them. Yet diverse ecosystems are known to be far more resilient to change and perturbations than ecosystems supporting only a limited assemblage of species. A single link in a spider’s web may not perform a specific function in isolation, but the links altogether provide the web with strength and stability. If enough links are lost however the entire web will collapse in the slightest gust of wind. Humans are as intrinsically part of this web as any other organism on the planet.
“We should not in any way feel complacent that we are not on the list of possible extinctions” Richard Leakey
In the UK over 900 native species are currently classed as a conservation priority, with several hundreds more known to be in significant decline. The countryside is now silent of many species which were once a familiar sight even as recent as only a generation ago. Each year several millions are spent on conservation, and yet rare species are still slipping through the net.
“In 2002, world leaders committed, through the Convention on Biological Diversity, to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.... Our analyses suggest that biodiversity has continued to decline over the past four decades...the rate of biodiversity loss does not appear to be slowing” Butchart et al 2010.
Many rare species, given the right conditions, can thrive and are in fact extremely successful at expanding their populations. Wild poppy plants are a key example of this; hidden from view for decades and surviving only as seeds in the ground the moment small patches of land are not sprayed with herbicide they can flourish in huge numbers. Huge resources are therefore not always required to prevent species decline. By identifying and managing the specific pressures they face, whether this be habitat degradation or manipulation by man, these species can be released from their ongoing decline.
When habitats are successfully restored the knock on effects can be huge – a pond cleared out to support a rare stonewort becomes a haven for breeding damselflies, a hay meadow managed for a rare orchid can start to support rare ground nesting birds. And healthy functioning ecosystems have almost incalculable value to humans.
Human beings have an unparalleled ability to show compassion for life and empathy with living things – it is time to use our knowledge and wisdom to save the planet for the next generation.