Puffin Fratercula arctica, group, Isle of May National Nature reserve

Using science to save nature

RSPB science has an outstanding reputation and we're committed to finding solutions to nature’s problems.

State of Nature 2016

In September 2016, three years on from the first State of Nature report, we joined forces with more than 50 other organisations to launch State of Nature 2016, with the help of Sir David Attenborough.

This report gives us the clearest picture yet of how wildlife is faring across the UK and its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, and the statistics are overwhelming.

The report revealed that 56% of the UK species assessed have declined since 1970, and one in ten are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

The report also included new research, which found that the way we manage our farmland has been the strongest driver of species' declines since 1970. Climate change has also had a major impact on UK species.

Tagging turtle doves

While the picture presented by the report is bleak, it is not without hope. The rallying call for action issued in the 2013 report has been met by a myriad of exciting and innovative conservation projects.

For example, since 2014 we have been satellite tagging turtle doves to identify their migration routes and the staging and wintering grounds they use across their flyway.

In June 2015, a bird named Titan became the first UK-breeding turtle dove to have been followed on its complete migration to and from Africa, and following this success we were able to tag more turtle doves in summer 2016.

The unique insights this work is providing into the time they spend outside the UK will inform our research, ultimately helping us to work out how to reverse the catastrophic 93% decline that these iconic birds have suffered since 1995.

Helping people make a difference

Another key theme of State of Nature 2016 was that individuals can make a difference for nature, and the report encouraged readers to get involved in volunteering, creating homes for wildlife, campaigning, living sustainably and monitoring wildlife.

So in March 2017, we were delighted when we were awarded almost £50,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project that aims to encourage people to help save one of the UK's best-loved birds – the puffin.

Numbers of these charismatic birds have plummeted across the UK and Europe and the species is now vulnerable to global extinction.

Project Puffin will combine the latest technology with citizen science to tackle three of the biggest challenges hampering conservation efforts for puffins: discovering more about where they go to find food, how their numbers are changing and what they feed their chicks.

Our scientists have tagged puffins and conducted counts at puffin colonies to address the first two of these issues, while the public was asked to send in photographs of puffins with fish in their beaks to address the third.

This is helping us to build a picture of what puffin chicks are being fed and we hope that the information collected will ultimately allow us to inform the Government on the best ways to protect puffins.

Through this, and many other projects conducted by the RSPB and our fellow conservation organisations, we hope to have better news on the state of nature by the time the next report is published.